As an adult who knows she’s autistic, and who has come to understand the role these habits play in my life, I’ll defend the validity and necessity of so-called “special interests” with the (over)zealous fervor I usually save for shipwrecks and spies. I’m vehemently opposed to any ideology that recommends discouraging them in autistic children—or guiding them toward areas of focus that might make them more employable in the future, as if an autistic person’s curiosity is only valuable if it’s profitable—in an effort to make us appear “less autistic” and thus more palatable to neurotypical people.
I believe special interests have the ability to bring a sense of order and control to a world that is often baffling to us. I appreciate the escapism they provide when things get too overwhelming. And I love the sheer joy people take in them for their own sake—the rush of wonder, fascination, and accomplishment that comes from hurtling down obscure rabbit holes and grabbing hold of every piece of information you can find about something you love.
Embracing my special interest didn’t solve everything. But I was able to take all of that energy I had been wasting on constantly policing myself and my enthusiasm, and put it toward other things. Consequently, I didn’t hate life so much.
But one of the things that I love about special interests—or at least the way that I experience them—is how they tend to intensify just as you need them to.