What are 'special interests'?
What are special interests for people with Autism - a personal illustration.
Hunter is not Hunter's real name - he chose it for this blog. It is taken from the Japanese anime series, Hunter X Hunter. The show features the protagonist Gon, on a mission to train himself as a hunter. He reunites with his father, who is alive and an accomplished hunter too. This is one of Hunter's special interests. He doesn't just like it he lives it.
Hunter has been hooked on the Rubik's cube for years. He spends hours working on improving his solves. His favourite events at cubing competitions are 3x3 blind and 4x4 blind. He talks about algorithms and memorization all the time. It makes no difference to him if you take part in the conversation (which I can't because I don't understand it). When he meets someone new he judges their usefulness to him based on how well they can solve a cube. I'm not that useful to him.
He has had many interests over the years. He wore a spiderman costume for over a year once. He taught himself how to play a Japanese flute, learnt how to graffiti and covered our garage. A particular favourite of mine was his interest in detectives. We sourced him a set of detective items from obscure dealers online and he made traps and spied on us for months. He studied Sherlock Holmes and took on many of his traits for a while. When we booked a villa in Mallorca one summer, he sent 10 days inside watching the series starring Benedict Cumberbatch over and over. By the time we flew home he had decided to take up the violin.
These interests envelop him and drive him - they have a mad urgency that is quite exciting but also tiring at times.
He understands now that being in a community of enthusiasts helps him. So we travel all-round the country attending Rubik's cube competitions. These events consist of 2 days of sitting in a hall of 200 hundred (mostly) boys clicking their cubes and discussing the merits of different brands of lubrication. It's given him so much more joy than we could ever simulate at home. It's also enabled him to talk about being autistic. In the evenings, in the bar of the hotel, he socialises and it brings me great joy.
Penny is my daughter - the name is taken from Big Bang Theory, her favourite TV show. She watches it on a loop. It's a comedy but she never laughs at it. She has glasses the same as Penny's and uses phrases from the series all the time. She wants to be a brain surgeon and study sciences like many of the characters in the series.
Penny's interests aren't as clear as Hunter's. Apparently this is common in girls with autism. She does have things she likes, really likes but doesn't have hobbies in the same way Hunter does. She worries about her friendships (which are hard work for her). She does like series / TV shows so we have moved through lots of them and on days when she is very low she watches all 8 Harry Potter movies without sleeping. She is very capable and could achieve almost anything. When she takes up a hobby she excels very quickly (football. piano, singing, drama, swimming) but loses interest just a fast. This means her interests don't show in the same way as Hunter's do. She does like to talk and talk and talk about the social politics of school, the family, my work etc.
Penny sometimes talks at me all evening and doesn't let me move. Her favourite criticism of me is 'I don't feel like you're completely present Mum'. What is impressive about her is that when she sets her mind to something she achieves excellent results. If she ever does a manicure for me, for example, it far exceeds the quality of a salon experience. She's meticulous, a perfectionist, in fact. This is probably why she gives up on things - she sets such high standards for herself that it tires her out.
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