Thursday, November 29, 2012

Autism Wiki: Of Narrow Interests

"Obsession? What obsession?"
A high school senior displays part of the comic book collection that inspired his study into superheroes and doomsday. Watchmen, seen up front and later released as a major motion picture, is one of the books he analyzed.

Children with Asperger syndrome often have an intense and obsessive level of focus on things of interest. Some have suggested that these "obsessions" are essentially arbitrary and lacking in any real meaning or context; however, researchers note that these "obsessions" typically focus on the mechanical (how things work) as opposed to the psychological (how people work).

Sometimes these interests are lifelong; in other cases, they change at unpredictable intervals. In either case, there are normally only one or two interests at any given time. The interests are often linked in some way that is logical only to the AS individual.

In pursuit of these interests, people with AS often manifest extremely sophisticated reasoning, an almost obsessive focus, and a remarkably good memory for trivial facts. Hans Asperger called his young patients "little professors" because he thought his patients had as comprehensive and nuanced an understanding of their field of interest as university professors.

People with AS may have little patience for things outside these narrow interests. In school, they may be perceived as highly intelligent underachievers or overachievers, clearly capable of outperforming their peers in their field of interest, yet persistently unmotivated to do regular homework assignments (sometimes even in their areas of interest). Others may be hypermotivated to outperform peers in school.

The combination of social problems and intense interests can lead to unusual behavior, such as greeting a stranger by launching into a lengthy monologue about a special interest rather than introducing oneself in the socially accepted way. However, in many cases adults can outgrow this impatience and lack of motivation and develop more tolerance to new activities and meeting new people.

Real Life Examples of Narrow Interests

Pets can become obsessions for the aspie child -- they are always around the house and do not talk or present a socially complex partner.

Certain dolls may become extremely close to the aspie child -- eg, one that looks like him/her or a Furby because it appears to interact with them, thus providing social interaction unachievable with other human children.

Computer games can become very addictive to the aspie child -- they provide visual stimulation minus the need for social interaction. In many cases, multiplayer games like Club
Penguin or or Stardoll, also provide a non-intimidating way to socialize "in world" while playing the game. See the Internet.

Magical things -- fairies, unicorns, etc. -- are also often an obsession.

Cards/Sports-Facts -- baseball or football cards and scoreboard information -- become a way to interact with people and their competitive instincts but not in an intimidating social way (no discussion required).

Strange things -- turtles, mushrooms, African dictators, the Holocaust, grafitti, ect. -- things like these may have been discovered early in an AS child's early childhood, and have since been an obsession to the AS child.

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