I was stumped for a title on this one. The questions all center around various ways we experience the world around us, but they’re about as loosely related as you can get and still say there’s a theme.
1. Is the fascination with certain topics usually a life-long one, persistent over many years, or subject to change ?
2. What are your special interests and on what scale do you engage in them?
3. What effect does alcohol have on you, particularly on your executive function or stimming?
4. I’m wondering if sitting all crossed-up in chairs is an ASD ‘thing.’ (i.e. do you do this?)
5. Do you have some very specific memories? Such as “ah-ha!” moments that you can draw up much more clearly than most memories, involving not only a picture but feelings, perhaps sounds and smells etc. as well and the image is VERY clear whereas most memories are a thought.
6. Do you sometimes attribute feelings to inanimate objects? Do you feel like certain objects ‘want to’ be interacted with or will feel bad if you don’t use them? Do you explain some of your quirks in this way, for example thinking that street furniture or certain textures want to be touched/felt, rather than you want to touch them? Or does it feel this way but you translate it when talking to others?
7. Does arousal influence you in an autism-specific way? As in: Do you overload easily when aroused? Does arousal influence, for example, your verbal reasoning skills than you feel would be “normal”? Do you stim when aroused? (for clarification: the questioner described this question as being “personal” so I think they are referring to sexual arousal, but answer in whatever way is comfortable for you)
8. Do you have difficulty with sequencing – working out the order in which you need to do things – for example if you were preparing an unfamiliar meal with several elements, would you have difficulty balancing them all without explicit planning and measurement in advance? Do you often realise you’ve done things in the wrong order or in a very inefficient way?
9. Is your primary fantasy ‘stopping’? In school, I used to fantasize about spontaneously dropping unconscious. As an adult, I fantasize about leaving the social system entirely. more details here
10. We often hear about autistic children wandering off. Did you wander? Did you “disappear” frequently to the point that was upsetting to your family (or teachers?) Why did you wander off? What do you remember about it? Now that you are an adult do you still wander? Do you disappear (perhaps during sensory overload) without telling anyone that you need to remove yourself at this time? more details here
This is the final part in 4-part series on self-employment for people on the autism spectrumand the one I’m most nervous about posting. I nearly titled it “Don’t Try This at Home” because when I say this is what works for me, I’m not kidding. Your mileage may vary greatly. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works for you. Starting a business is far from a textbook undertaking and there are as many ways to go about it as there are successful business owners.
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably still wondering, but how exactly does this starting a business work? You can find a ton of advice about starting a business online. I feel like it would be irresponsible if I didn’t strongly advise you to read extensively, across many different sources, to get an understanding of what owning a business involves. It pays to know how deep the water is before you dive into the pool.
Having said that, I’ve always been more of a learning on the fly kind of gal. If I can doggie paddle, I’ll dive in and figure the rest out as I go. You can only learn so much about swimming by standing on the pool deck watching a YouTube video.
I’m going to close out this series by sharing the five things I’ve learned in the deep end that go counter to much of the formal business school type of advice you’ll encounter elsewhere. Keep in mind that this is what worked for me–what played to my strengths. It may or may not work for you, but I think it demonstrates that doing what works for you is often more important than doing things the way you think they should be done or the way someone else has told you they should be done.
1. Forget the Business Plan
If you Google “how to start a business” you’ll find lots of start-up checklists and on most of those checklists one of the steps will be “create a business plan.” I have a confession: the only time I ever wrote a business plan was last year, as part of an Entrepreneurship course. By that point I’d been a business owner for more than two decades.
I know that a business plan is necessary if you want to go to a bank or other investors for funding. Other than that, I’m not sure what purpose it serves. To me, it seems like a poor use of time. The business plan that I wrote for class required at least forty hours of work and I was just doing the minimum necessary to get a decent grade. If I was making a serious effort, it would have easily taken me five times as long. And still it would have been based on assumptions that inevitably go right out the window once you get down in the trenches of running a business.
In business school, one of the first management skills you learn is how to do a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The idea is that by identifying internal (S and W) and external (O and T) positives and negatives, you can then set realistic objectives for a project or business.
Predictably, I have an issue with the way a SWOT analysis frames the “harmful” aspects of the model. I’ve found that weaknesses (and sometimes threats) can be just as helpful in achieving an objective as strengths. If you see a weakness as an opportunity to adapt, compensate or innovate your way around a problem, then that weakness is going to be helpful in the long run.
For example, because of my weaknesses in executive function, I’ve created all sorts of organizational systems and fail safes that make me far more organized at work than the average person. Not because I love being organized but because if I wasn’t super organized I would spend my days going in circles, accomplishing little. Out of necessity, I’ve taken a weakness and turned it into a super-competency.
Aspies are faced with some challenges that can make being self-employed very difficult. The two biggest potential roadblocks are issues with executive function and uneven social skills.
Executive function affects things like planning, initiation of actions, problem solving and attention switching. If you have poor executive function, the lack of accountability inherent in self-employment can be a recipe for disaster. I’ve developed a lot of systems to keep me on track and impose order on my work day–things like keeping lists, using a dayplanner, creating artificial deadlines, setting alarms, making notes to myself, and rewarding myself for meeting goals.
No matter what type of business you have (or what type of job you do), executive function is fundamental to staying on track on a day-to-day basis. If you can’t master the basics of managing a daily schedule and completing tasks on time, then being your own boss will probably make you more miserable than happy.
The other big challenge is social skills. While it’s possible to structure a business or freelance position so that you have very little contact with others, that isn’t always the case. Some common freelance/self-employed positions lend themselves to solitary work and others require a lot of contact with people.
For example, a website like Elance makes it possible for freelancers and small businesses to bid on and complete jobs entirely online. I’ve hired freelancers and gotten excellent work done without ever speaking with anyone over the phone or in person. If you’re skilled in a field that primarily requires creating deliverables (websites, graphics, text, analysis, code, etc.), you may be able to transact most of your business without a lot of face-to-face interaction (if you prefer).
On the other hand, turning your skill into a career may require you to interact with lot of people on a daily basis. If you’re an expert bicycle repair person, you’ll have to talk to people about their bikes to find out what work needs to be performed. But–oh–wait! I bet an someone with a special interest in bicycle repair would love nothing more than talking to people about repairing bicycles!
That’s another benefit to turning a special interest into a career. I find business-related interaction to be less stressful than general social interaction. If I’m talking to someone about a project then I’m in my element and can navigate the conversation fairly confidently. I’ve even been interviewed by writers for articles and books in my industry as an “expert” and actually enjoyed those opportunities. It was fun to talk about a subject I know well (even if the interviewers had to keep reminding me to slow down so they could understand me). Continue reading The Challenges of Being a Self-Employed Aspie→
Your mom told me that you like stop signs a lot. When I was your age, I really liked old coins and when I got a little older, I really liked baseball cards and now that I’m grown up, one of the things I like a lot is old buildings that people don’t use anymore. I especially like looking at pictures of old buildings and I spend a lot of time searching online for them.
So when your mom said you like to look for stop sign pictures, I thought it would be fun to ask my friends who read my blog to take some stop sign pictures for you. They asked their friends and a whole bunch of people went out and took photos of stop signs all over the world just for you.
We hope that you like them!
P.S. If you click on the photos, some of them have bigger versions and you’ll be able to see the stop signs better.
P.P.S. Some people took a bunch of photos so I put one here and linked to the others. Go have a look!
In the comments on my infodumping post last week, a mom mentioned that her son’s special interest is stop signs. He’s 6 and he loves everything stop sign related. His teachers think this is a problem and try to discourage his interest. But his mom, who sounds like an awesome person, encourages him to do stop sign activities at home, both for fun and as a way to learn new things. That got me thinking that we could potentially make a little boy happy and show him that there are lots of adults who think that having a special interest isn’t weird or something to feel bad about.
So how about if we celebrate Tommy’s special interest by seeing how many photos of stop signs we can come up with for him? Since he’s already using Google to find photos online, I’d like for us to share photos that we’ve personally taken. The easiest option is to take a photo of a stop sign in your neighborhood or if you’re feeling ambitious you could find some interesting place in your area that has a stop sign. Or maybe you happen to have a vacation photo with a stop sign in it?
I know there are readers all over the world. Hopefully we can get some different designs and languages, but any stop sign you can add to the collection would be great. If you want to write a few sentences about the photo–location, pronunciation for non-English versions, a bit about you or your neighborhood, a fun fact about the location (or the sign in general if you don’t want to reveal your location)–that would be awesome. Just keep it appropriate to a 6-year-old.
You can put your photo in the comments below. You can share it on Twitter (mention me so I see it: @aspiemusings) or my Facebook wall (https://www.facebook.com/MusingsofanAspie). Or you can post it on Tumblr, Instagram or a photo sharing site and get a link to me. I’ll put together all of the photos and notes in a post for Tommy. Let’s put a deadline of the end of the month on this so we all feel motivated and such, executive function being what it is around here (especially mine!)
I’m going to start us off with this photo of a stop sign from a train platform in Korea:
Online Neurodiversity Lecture Series
In spite of its rather odd title, I’ve been enjoying the “No Mind Left Behind” lectures that @quarridors shared a link to ages ago. I’ve watched most of the first day of the scientific track, which I found more interesting than the bits of the “reality” track that I’ve seen. The scientific lectures have the benefit of being very short (no more than 20 minutes each) so the speakers are forced to get the point fast. Many of the lectures focus on autism, but ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s and other atypical neurologies are also covered. A scan of the lecture titles will help you narrow things down to your areas of interest pretty quickly.
Two lectures in particular that I enjoyed were the ESSENCE lecture on very early symptom identification and the lecture on the development of empathy. One thing that struck me in the ESSENCE lecture was the idea that very young children are often diagnosed based on the type of doctor that they see. ASD, ADHD and Tourette’s can look similar in two- and three-year-olds, so a child who gets seen by an ADHD specialist at that age is more likely to get an ADHD diagnosis while a child with similar symptoms who gets seen by an ASD specialist first is more likely to be diagnosed as autistic. The lecturer also said he believes that children younger than 3 with hyperactivity symptoms should first be evaluated for ASD before ADHD is considered.
The lecture on empathy by Chrisopher Gillberg was fascinating because he is the person who coined the term Empathy Quotient and his beliefs about empathy are so different from Simon Baron-Cohen’s (who developed the infamous EQ test). Gillberg takes a very neutral, scientific view, avoiding the sort of emotionally charged language we usually see associated with empathy and autism, which is refreshing.
This weekend I brought over a bunch of survey answers from Survey Monkey. Yes, people are still answering the adult autism surveys! There are links to all of the survey posts from the final survey if you want to check out the latest additions.
It’s rare these days that the thread of comments on a post isn’t two or three or five times as long as the post itself. This makes me happy. Happy that so many of you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts here. Happy that each post becomes a jumping off point for discussions that wind in all sorts of interesting directions. Happy that we can learn from each other.
I enjoy reading your comments–and I do read every single one of them. I especially enjoy the longer ones where a subject catches someone’s interest and they go off on an enthusiastic tangent. This happens a lot.
You know what else happens a lot? Apologizing. No sooner does someone finish writing their long detailed informative comment than they’re apologizing for it. A recent exchange with Ischemgeek made me realize how often we apologize for simply talking. I do it in the comments too and this is my blog!
And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve started to write a comment on someone else’s blog, then deleted it for fear that it was too long or irrelevant. I bail on comments more often than I finish them. The ones I do leave, I often end up wishing I’d said less or came across sounding more chatty and less. . . . fact-y.
No one likes a smarty-pants right? I learned that lesson early and well.
Does Infodumping Have a Place?
We’re autistic–we have deep knowledge of certain subjects, we’re passionate about our knowledge and we want to share. This should be a good thing, but so often it’s something that we’re made to feel bad about and have been since childhood.
In that exchange I mentioned above, Ischemgeek said:
I like hearing others monologue at me (love learning & reading stuff), but I’m used to having to apologize for it when I do it, yeah. When I was a kid, I’d be told I was being domineering or rude and then made to apologize… which didn’t have the effect of teaching me not to monologue because I’m usually 5-10 minutes in before I realize I’ve been talking a while, it just taught me to apologize when I realize I’ve monologued.
Monologuing or infodumping is part of our nature. I understand why it’s discouraged in children. Monopolizing the conversation is rude. So is talking about a subject the other person isn’t interested in.
If you’re told enough times that talking about what interests you is rude, it’s easy to start thinking that talking itself is rude. Because what would we talk about, if not what interests us? We’re black and white thinkers–we come to conclusions like this as a matter of course, especially when we’re younger.
But like Ischemgeek points out, that doesn’t necessarily teach us not to infodump. It teaches us to reflexively apologize every time we say more than three sentences.
Is that necessary as adults? What if the other person expresses interest in the subject? Like Ischemgeek, I will happily listen to someone infodump on a wide range of subjects. Not only that, I’ll often prolong their monologuing by asking lots of questions. I love learning new things and am fascinated by details. When someone has an expert level of knowledge on a subject, their enthusiasm for the subject is contagious. At least I think it is.
I’ve learned about fascinating subjects I never would have pursued on my own thanks to someone else’s passion for them. Ancient Egypt. Aboriginal camp dogs. Unknown unknowns. Primate social behavior. Poaching in Africa. The epidemiology of cancer in Hispanic populations in the US. Given enough time to think about it, I could fill a page at least with topics of memorable conversations like those.
The Scientist and I are both monologuers at times. We indulge each others’ topics of interest. I know far more than the average person about a whole bunch of subjects thanks to his passionate interest in them and the same is true of him. That’s not to say all or even most of our conversations are one-sided monologues. Simply that we both enjoy learning new things and not every conversation we have has to be a typical back and forth, each person talking for equal amounts of time type of conversation.
Making Our Own Rules
I think, because we’re adults and because we can, we should put a moratorium on apologizing for sharing information that we find interesting. Starting here, in the comments. The asynchronous nature of blog comments makes this a low risk place to infodump. We can each choose to read or skip over comments as we see fit. No one has to read what you wrote (well, except probably me).
If you have something to say that you think is interesting and adds to the conversation, say it. Don’t apologize for being passionate about what interests you or for sharing it.
I was in the cereal aisle in Target, waiting for The Scientist to decide on his cereal purchase, when I overheard this exchange between a mother and her preteen son:
Mother: “James, come and let’s pick out some cereal.”
James (appears from around the corner): “But I haven’t finished looking at all the pasta. I looked at the pasta on the right but I didn’t look at the pasta on the left.”
Mother: “We need to pick out your cereal.”
James (sounding panicked, voice rapidly rising into hysteria): “But I need to look at all the pasta! I haven’t looked at the pasta on the left. I need–“
Mother: “Okay, you can finish looking at the pasta if you promise to come right back here when you’re done and pick out your cereal.”
James: “I promise.” (dashes off around the corner then returns a minute later)
Mother: “Are you done?”
James: (looking happy) “Uh-huh.”
If you’re autistic or you have an autistic child, I bet you know why this conversation made me smile.
James’s mother didn’t say, “You don’t need to look at all the pasta.”
She didn’t say, “That’s ridiculous.”
Or, “You can look at the pasta later (or next time).”
Or, “Stop whining or we’re leaving.”
Or, “Grow up and act your age.” (James was around 10 or 11, I think.)
Or, “Get over here and pick out a box of cereal or I’m taking away your video games for the rest of the day.”
Though she may not understand why James needs to look at all of the pasta when he visits Target, she recognized that preventing him from doing it would result in a meltdown in aisle 13.
And look at the results: The situation was rapidly de-escalated. James was happy. He came back and picked out his cereal as promised, without any prompting. His mother had to wait for him, but an extra minute standing in the cereal aisle beats the hell out of trying to calm a kid having a meltdown in the cereal aisle.
Meet Us Where We Are
There is a lot of talk about how autistic kids (and adults) need to learn flexibility. We’re too rigid, have too many nonfunctional routines. There are elaborate systems for teaching flexible thinking (which is important, I get that). But maybe non-autistic people need to be more flexible, too.
For kids like James, Target is stressful. The noise, the lights, the people, the smells–any or all of these can be overwhelming to autistic individuals. (And yes, based on what I saw I’m assuming–perhaps wrongly, but I doubt it–that he’s on the spectrum.)
If looking at the pasta makes a kid feel better, is that a big deal?
For some parents it might be. Let’s face it–a kid who needs to not only look at the pasta, but to be sure he’s looked at all of it? A little weird. But so what? We all have our coping mechanisms and James has found a way to cope with the stress of Target.
And his mother, bless her, she seemed to get this. She doesn’t look concerned about people judging her for letting her son “have his way.” She doesn’t belittle or shame him for what is, in his mind, a very real need. She doesn’t complain that he’s wasting their time or being uncooperative.
Her response left me wondering how long it took them to get to this point. Because not only did James interrupt his study of the pasta aisle to come when she called him, he returned the second time and picked out his cereal without being prompted. For a kid with such an intense need to study the pasta aisle, this is huge. Huge.
In this one small exchange, he’s learning how to negotiate, how to compromise, how to satisfy his needs while being conscious of his responsibilities, how to keep a promise, how to regulate anxiety and/or sensory overload using coping mechanisms.
Yes, autistics can be rigid. Yes, we have some odd routines or habits. Sometimes this has to be addressed. If James needed to spend an hour studying the pasta aisle, then yeah, big problem.
But a few minutes in the pasta aisle, accepting that the pasta on the left is important, even critical, to this particular kid–that doesn’t have to be a problem at all.
When you have an autistic family member or friend, you’re going to run into situations that you find hard to understand. There will be times when we’re not where you think we should be or where you wish we were.
When this happens, try practicing a little flexibility. Meet us where we are. You might be surprised at the results.
Before I started reading about Asperger’s Syndrome, I had no idea what a special interest was, even though I’ve had them all of my life. A special interest, for those you who aren’t familiar with the term, is an “encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus.”
In other words, an interest in a topic that is either very narrowly defined or very intense. If you’ve never spent time around someone with Asperger’s you might underestimate what those two phrases mean.
I wrote a post about special interests in general earlier this week. Not surprisingly, one of my current special interests is autism. Here’s a glimpse of what a special interest looks like in action for me:
I spend 3-4 hours a day writing, reading, researching and thinking about Asperger’s Syndrome and autism. I’d spend more, but I have to work, eat, walk the dog, sleep, etc.
My idea of a fun way to spend an evening is watching a DVD on occupational therapy for sensory dysfunction.
I scribble notes for blog posts on scraps of paper at all hours of the day because I’m constantly relating things that I see, read, hear and experience back to ASD.
There are 532 autism- and Asperger’s-related scientific articles saved in my Dropbox. There would be more but I only managed to get as far back as 2009 before I lost access to the PubMed and PsychoInfo databases when I graduated.
Words like perseverative and motor planning deficit are part of my daily vocabulary.
My browser has a bookmark list called “aspie links.” It has too many links to reasonably find anything so I’ve also created another bookmark list called “important aspie links.”
Among the important bookmarks is one for the video of the latest meeting of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, in case I need to watch the chapter on the DSM-V updates again.
My county library has 51 books and DVDs on Asperger’s and I’m reading/watching them in the order the library catalog lists them. I’m on number 17. When I finish that list, I’ll start on the list of 317 autism-related books/DVDs. In order.
First, I need to say that I hate the phrase “special interest.” It sounds demeaning or patronizing. All I can think of is a doddering old great aunt looking over my shoulder at my stamp collection and saying, “well, isn’t that special.”
I’d much rather use “obsession,” or if that’s too extreme, then “specialized interest,” which is more precisely descriptive. But the term most often used in the ASD community is special interest so I’ll use that here, cringing every time I type it.
Okay, with that bit of editorializing out of the way, we can talk about a topic dear to most aspies’ hearts: the special interest. According to the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s Syndrome, having an “encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus” is a core symptom of AS.
You’ll notice there are two parts to that criteria: intensity or focus. A special interest can be an intense interest in a broad subject (architecture) or a narrowly focused interest (mid-12th century Cistercian monasteries). Generally, narrowly focused interests are also intense, but a special interest doesn’t have to be stereotypically narrow to qualify.
What Does a Special Interest Look Like?
A partial list of my special interests, starting in childhood:
Construction toys (legos, lincoln logs, tinker toys)
Text (reading, writing, words, found text, Roget’s thesaurus)
Guinness Book of World Records
Sewing (making my own clothes)
The stock market
M*A*S*H (TV show)
Human detritus (abandoned places, found objects, discarded things, cemeteries)
Astronomy, especially Messier objects
The Choson Dynasty
You can look at the list and think, “but everyone has hobbies, what’s so special about yours?” Like much of what differentiates an Asperger’s trait from a general personality quirk, the answer is the degree to which the trait is present.
For example, when I took up running, I didn’t just go out and jog a few times a week. I read books about training for marathons. I found workout plans online and joined a training site to get personalized drills. I learned about Fartlek and track workouts and running technique. I signed up for road races. Ten years later, I spend more on running clothes and shoes than on everyday clothes. I use a heart rate monitor and a distance tracker to record my workouts. If I go on vacation, I pack all of running stuff. I don’t just like to run occasionally; running is an integral part of my life. It fills a very specific need.
Shelter from the Storm
That’s a key differentiator between a run-of the-mill hobby and an Aspergerian special interest. Spending time engaged in a special interest fulfills a specific need for aspies. It’s more than just a pleasant way to pass the time. For me, indulging in a special interest is how I recharge myself. It’s comforting. It allows me to completely immerse myself in something that intensely interests me while tuning out the rest of the world. If you have a favorite movie that you rewatch or a book you like to return to again and again, it’s a bit like that.
Special Interests Gone Wild
The danger in special interests is that they can become consuming. They can take over every conversation, every free minute of the day, every thought, if you let them. They can be a refuge or a hiding place.
There are days when I’m so engrossed in writing and/or work (I’ve made one of my special interests into a career) that I’ll happily spend eight or ten or twelve hours at the computer. I put dinner on the stove and then forget about it until I smell it burning. The sun sets and hours later I realize the house is pitch dark. If the dog didn’t nudge my elbow when it was time for her to go out or be fed, I would forget that she existed.
Clearly this can be a problem.
Another problem can arise if the object of a special interest is socially unacceptable. When my husband read my list of special interests, he jokingly added himself to it. He was being funny, but sometimes aspies do take on another person as a special interest. If that person is a celebrity, the aspie can safely spend hours learning about and admiring that person from afar. But if the person is someone in the aspie’s life, the special interest may be expressed as unwanted attention, harassment or stalking. (You can read an excellent first person account of this issue here: Love or Obsession: When a Person Becomes an Aspie’s Special Interest.)
So while most special interests are “harmless,” if an interest involves behavior that is illegal, taboo or a threat to your or someone else’s health or wellbeing, it may be necessary to seek help in redirecting your attention to a safer alternative.
How Does an Aspie Find a Special Interest?
Special interests tend to find us, rather than the other way around. I have no idea what has drawn me to many of my special interests over the years. Most are things that I have an intense but inexplicable fascination with.
Like writing, reading, and martial arts, my interest in abandoned places and things has been with me since childhood. But other interests have come and gone over the years. A special interest often arises suddenly, becomes intense for a period (months or years) then disappears just as quickly. My collecting-related interests from childhood were like that. I would spend hours organizing, sorting and rearranging my coins, stamps and baseball cards. I’d talk my parents into driving me to collector’s shows, my tattered value guide tucked under my arm, bouncing with excitement at the prospect of filling a hole in one of my collections.
Then, when my interest in one of my collections suddenly dried up, I’d pack my binders and reference books and collecting paraphernalia away in the closet where they’d sit collecting dust while I spent hours comparing annual editions of the Guinness Book of World Records to see which records had changed or clipping articles about M*A*S*H from magazines so I could add them to my scrapbook.
How Much is Too Much?
Special interests are important to most aspies’ happiness and perhaps to our mental health. If I go through a period where I can’t engage in my special interests, I get agitated and spend a lot of time thinking about what I’d like to be doing. For me, and for a lot of aspies, a special interest is our preferred way of de-stressing, recharging and just plain enjoying ourselves.
But like any good thing, it’s possible to overdo it and veer into unhealthy territory. I think it’s safe to say that a special interest has become too consuming when it keeps you from taking care of daily responsibilities (school, work, hygiene), negatively impacts your health (lack of sleep, poor eating habits), or has a significant negative impact on loved ones (limited social contact, financial burden).
However, there is one case where you get to pursue your special interest all day, five days a week, and society gives you an approving thumbs up: when you turn a special interest into a career. Suddenly, you’re no longer a geek who knows too much about C++ programming, production switchers or eighteenth century fashion. You’re a computer programmer, an audio equipment repair technician or a museum curator. Big difference, right?
I’ve been lucky enough to do this twice, making it perfectly acceptable to dedicate most of my waking hours to a favorite subject. I’ve read and heard about a lot of aspies who’ve done the same with their lifelong special interests. It’s certainly not possible for everyone with Asperger’s to turn a special interest into a job or career, but when it does work out that way, you get to be one of the lucky people who earns a living doing what you love.
For another perspective on having a special interest feels, check out Focusing on Special Interests by Jeannie Davide-Rivera who blogs about Asperger’s at Aspie Writer. I especially enjoyed learning about her first special interest, because we shared some favorite baseball players in common as children.