Dark Side of Special Interests

Special interests are supposed to elicit joy in autistics. Yet, there’s a dark side to our passion. Due to interactions with neurotypical people, we may begin to feel shame, stress, or psychache from the things we love most. What causes this pain?

1) We are teased for being “broken records.” Since we love what we love with steadfast passion, we often talk solely about that topic. We repeat ourselves, gushing the same stories and facts. We do this because we enjoy recounting these facts, not because we don’t realize we are repeating ourselves. But our joy is met with rejection. “You’re talking about that again?” they say. “We already know. No one else cares!” These responses are extremely painful.

2) Since NTs don’t grasp the hyperfocused intensity of the autistic brain, they misunderstand the focus and label interests as problematic or unhealthy obsessions. This misunderstanding is hurtful to autistics who have to extend an immense amount of energy defending their interests to abled critics. Because ASD is an invisible disability for many (not all) autistics, NTs don’t realize that by calling a special interest problematic and telling an autistic to stop, they are actually perpetuating ableism and attacking a disabled person for something that is largely out of their control.

3) Our detailed perspective on topics can alienate us from those who share our interests. We are happy to meet NTs that like what we love, only to discover that our minute passion frustrates them. For example, an NT listens to alternative metal, so I get excited and talk only about the specific band Dir en Grey. Or perhaps an autie meets an NT that likes their personal interest of Lord of the Rings. The autie starts critiquing all the ways that the films differ from the books (down to small details of dialogue). The NT gets angry because they just want to talk about how fun LotR is! The autie is crushed because they thought they had found someone who might understand.

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