The Life Autistic: What’s with the Autistic Obsessions?

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You’ve heard the stories. You’ve ‘Liked’ the posts. You’ve seen the viral videos.

“Adorable Boy WOWS Captain with Encyclopaedic Knowledge of Boeing 787 – and You Won’t Believe What He Did Next!”

“This Five-Year-Old Genius Knows More About Trash Compactors Than you will Ever Know about Anything in your Entire Life.”

It’s a basic formula: young child, semi-arcane interest, staggering depth of subject knowledge. Yet while it’s a common thread in the tapestry of The Life Autistic, it’s still not the best understood.

Autistic people have a strong tendency to fixate on specific interests, at a level that’s typically dubbed an ‘obsession’ or ‘enthusiasm.’ While hobbies might be more about practical activities (like camping), obsessions are more components of the hobby (like tents or camping equipment).

How do you develop obsessions?

I’ve had a few (and will share them later), but it’s when interest and ‘attainability’ collide. I had a much bigger kick about cameras when I was younger, and the proliferation of camera and camera gear magazines only stoked that further.

Is it bad to have such focused obsessions?

Not always. Sometimes they’re utterly impractical, but their side benefits pay off. I was once immersed in (sigh) Who Wants to be a Millionaire, to where it was more than just appointment viewing for me. Was it really all that life-enriching? No – but I banked an immense amount of game show and trivia knowledge.

Why can’t I get my child to obsess over something profitable, like neurosurgery?

In my experience, it’s less skill-based and more ‘knowledge-accumulation.’ I’ll use my photography example from earlier: the components, brands, and formats of a camera interested me, but I had no interest in actually using them or learning how to compose photos.

Do you ever get over it?

Sometimes they pass, other times they wax and wane.

What doesn’t pass is the “obsessive” tendency — I’m in a bit of a lull on mine at the moment, but with enough time and space, who knows?


 

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The Life Autistic: Our Stats are Different

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For those of you who played video games growing up (or, if you still have time to do that as a grown up), you know how it goes with character stats.

“Well, I could go with Axel, but he doesn’t have as much power as Goro, and neither of them are as quick as Chun-Li. I like speed, so I think I’ll go with Sonic.”

There’s a balance.

People have it too, where some have their ‘IQ’ boosted, but take a hit on ‘Athleticism.’ Others score well in ‘Looks,’ but maybe that’s balanced out with a lack of ‘Smarts.’

Or, heck, some people have it all (but their ‘Happiness’ stat is lacking).

Autistic stats seem that way too.

We might get a HUGE boost in Vocabulary and lack in Social Skills.

Some of us might do amazing in Artistic Ability, yet zero out in Verbal Communication.

Personally, I’ve worked on Coordination and Small Talk, but I’m still behind on Tact and Reading People.

It’d be nice to have some extra points to where I’d be a better athlete or have the endurance to be around people all day.

But it’s nice knowing that, no matter the balance of stats, I’m my own character.