While outsiders may view an autistic person passions as narrow obsessions, the truth is that many of us use our special interests to understand the world. Be it trains or Barbies, coins or vampires, our brains often utilize these interests to process sensory and social input. After all, metaphorically speaking, people are a lot like trains or coins or vampires. In a confusing society, these interests serve us in both refuge & reflection.
I’m breaking down the DSM-5 ASD assessment, so autistic people can prepare for an evaluation with a fuller knowledge of how to explain their personal traits to a practitioner. The DSM-5 is not the only autism assessment, but its emphasized traits are present in other tools. We’ll take a look at each criterion, its traits, and daily examples of the traits. (I’m not a licensed professional. DSM-5 info is at CDC.gov.)
• DSM-5 B looks at restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. B.3 focuses on: “Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus.”
• ASD traits under DSM-5 B.3 include: Strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests.
• Examples: Using specific comfort items, such as blankets, stuffed animals, photographs, keychains, etc.; fervently speaking to or talking to others about comfort items; feeling love for comfort items in both childhood and adulthood; crying over and defending comfort items; building collections of comfort items; having an intense and long-term passion for a certain subject, such as an animal, music genre, certain celebrity, mode of transportation, etc.; consistently connecting to others through our passion, i.e. all conversations remind us of our passion; becoming hyper-fixated on “universes,” such as a Star Wars, Harry Potter, Pokémon, or Sailor Moon.
Remember: the DSM-5 C states that “symptoms must be present in the early developmental period.”