Written by Marisa Hamamoto

Autistic special interests are intensely focused activities, topics, or hobbies pursued with immense dedication by autistic individuals. While neurotypical individuals might also have focused interests, the depth of engagement for autistic individuals often results in these interests dominating their thoughts and sometimes appearing as extreme obsessions.

Special interests among autistic individuals vary widely, debunking the stereotype that they are limited to trains, mathematics, and video games. These interests can encompass sports, the arts, academic subjects, nature, and more. Often, autistic individuals of all ages may have multiple special interests at once.

For some, these interests are lifelong passions, while for others, they evolve over time. Personally, dancing has been a lifelong special interest of mine. During the last couple of years, roller skating, tango dancing, and astrology got added. Past special interests have included origami, baking cookies, and collecting cute pens.

Special interests can be a bit quirky too. For example, I consider the color pink my “special interest color.”  Pink makes me happy. I have a pink couch, lots of pink clothes, and on my desk as I write this blog post, is a pink water bottle, a pink pen, a pink fidget toy, and pink earbuds. I’ve also encountered an autistic young adult who has a special interest in collecting fast food coupons and discussing the latest K-Pop trends.

These interests do more than bring joy and satisfaction. They play a crucial role in the wellbeing of autistic individuals. Research has shown numerous benefits of special interests, including stress reduction, confidence building, and fostering social connections. They can also lead to opportunities in employment and education.

Using myself as an example, my lifelong special interest in dancing has shaped my career as a dancer and dance leader. Additionally, my preference for pink has helped me connect with others who also like pink, and this has led to new social connections.

What are your special interests? I’d love to hear about them.

Need more inspiration? Want to be part of an awesome community promoting wellbeing and happiness in the autism community? Join the Autism Wellbeing Alliance!


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