Many people with autism have a highly focused level of interest in particular topics. Some special interests begin in childhood, but some are picked up later in life.
These interests can vary, for example, from a TV show or game to a type of animal, a type of machine or a country. They bring autistic people much joy and can be a positive influence on the rest of their lives - helping them develop friendships, determining what they might study or focusing their career choice.
There are many examples of special interests being turned into amazing accomplishments. For example activist Greta Thunberg's special interest in climate change has led to a global movement for change led by young people.
Special interest or obsession?
An obsession is a form of anxiety disorder and when a special interest tips over into an obsession it can create complications for children and young people - impacting on things like their wellbeing and ability to learn.
Here are some questions to think about to determine whether the behaviour is actually an obsession.
- Is the behaviour causing the person unhappiness - but they are unable to stop?
- It is creating issues for other people, for example siblings?
- Is it undermining their ability to learn? For instance, are they unable to concentrate on anything else at school?
- Is it limiting their ability to make friends or meet new people?
If the answer is yes it's worth visiting a GP to raise your concerns. They will be able to investigate the behaviour and may recommend therapy.
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