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asperger's syndrome information and features


Sensory Physical Mental Social Emotional Communication Talents Interests

For a lot of people, their interests and preoccupations are so mainstream and acceptable that no one, including themselves, ever questions them. Things like...

  • Gossip and celebrities.

  • Family life and kids.

  • Status symbols like cars, designer clothes, or holidays.

  • Social organisation e.g. religion and politics.

  • Social activities e.g. sports.

  • Work.

These are all 'people centred' interests, because an interest in other people and the social structures of society lies at the heart of all of them. It is so common for people to be interested in these sorts of things that it is labelled 'normal' and 'healthy', and pretty much taken as given that everyone you meet will be interested in at least one of them, and if not then there is probably something wrong with them, right?

There are though many people who have hobbies, interests, collections etc. that they are passionate or obsessive about that are nothing to do with people, such as collecting coasters, train spotting, or keeping tropical fish. They might be considered eccentric for it, but no one would suggest they were abnormal, because usually they will have one of the people centred interests in there somewhere as well. They may well dress up like characters from Star Trek and have a house filled with DVD's and memorabilia, but the chances are they also go to conventions or are members of a fan club... they seek out others with the same interests. In addition, though they may allow such an interest to dominate their lives, there are lines that they wouldn't cross. For example, they wouldn't let it interfere with their job or take precedent over the needs of their family or their health.

So what is special about the interests of people with Asperger Syndrome that makes them worthy of being commented on in many of the diagnostic criteria? Well, not necessarily anything. Though there might be an increased likelihood of people with Asperger Syndrome having unusual or eccentric interests, they are not automatically any worse than any other sort of person who is obsessed with their hobby.

There is the potential though for our interests to cause other people concern, particularly when we are children and have less self control, for the following reasons:

  • We are far less likely to seek out others with the same interests to enjoy them socially.

  • We may engage with our interests in repetitive or ritualistic ways.

  • We can let such interests dominate our lives to the extent they become more important than stopping to eat or sleep.

  • They may interfere with us concentrating on other areas of our lives such as school or work.

  • They may be a very odd interest that other people see as boring or pointless.

  • We may not be able to talk about anything else.

Some people try to discourage these interests because they are embarrassed by them or think they are boring, but I think it is wrong to do this because just because you can't see how it still might be fun for them, play is important for development in whatever form it takes, and it can also be desperately needed escapism from stress.

While some people may need help to keep things in perspective and not neglect other important areas of their life, no one has the right to mock or sit in judgement over what stimulates another persons mind. We are all different and their is much of interest in the world that many people simply cannot see.

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Sensory Physical Mental Social Emotional Communication Talents Interests
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