Everyone has hobbies and things they enjoy reading about or doing. Everyone. The difference between neurotypical people with hobbies and autistic people with special interests, as I understand it, is that the special interests of autistic people are marked as "extreme" by societal norms and can be "socially isolating", according to medical journals*.
When I was young, like really young, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Granted, it's pretty "normal" for a five year old girl to want to care for animals. It is not typical for a five year old girl to be able to spell "veterinarian" and already have a building picked out for her practice. When I was a little older I learned that veterinarians have to go through eight years of college just to end up having to put animals down sometimes. That was it for me on being a veterinarian, but I still love animals and I wrote more about that when I posted about what I'd be doing if I wasn't an artist.
Then I moved on to geology. More specifically, rocks and rock layers. I had a diagram in my bedroom of rock layers with actual dirt and rock in it. My mom was not a fan of it. Eventually it started falling apart and I threw it away. When I threw the diagram away my interest kind of went with it. Out of sight, out of mind. (Although, I do still collect rocks.)
I have, for my entire life, been really into movies. I like watching movies. I like looking at the construction of movies. I like thinking about how actors prepare for their roles. I like seeing a familiar face and listing off all of the other things I've seen that actor in. I really like watching old movies and kind of dissecting where we were as a country at that time and what would have motivated certain plot lines. I don't typically dig history, but when it includes movies you have my ear.
My favorite phone app? You might think it would be FaceTune or TikTok, but it's not. It's Scrabble GO. I love Scrabble. I've been playing Scrabble my whole life. I used to play with my grandma some lazy mornings and I've carried my love of words into adulthood. We even use a legit Scrabble board sometimes for class. It's great for vocabulary building and learning strategy.
I'm also a jigsaw puzzle girl. Puzzles have been put on the back burner, because I have plans for a travel puzzle table, but this is an extreme special interest. I have spent over $80 on a single puzzle.
And, well, you already know about my interest in painting.
Special Interests may look like an obsession or extreme infatuation to an outside or neurotypical perspective, but for autistic people (like me) they're so much more. Special Interests are one of the ways we cope with stress, manage our time, and feel involved in a world that was not built for us.
Getting my autism diagnosis was a huge relief in many ways. One of those ways was being able to let go of the shame I had around my special interests. Knowing now that they serve a healthy purpose makes me feel free to revel in them and feel good about them.
Autistic friends, share with me some of your special interests. Neurotypical friends, share with me something that you might love an "extreme amount".
<3 The Pop Art Girl
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