“My special interests kind of create an image for other people to know who I am.”


Knitted pillow with scooter

Image description: A knitted pillow depicting a blue kick scooter. The scooter takes up most of the surface of the pillow. Above and below the kick scooter are three rows of bobbles in a darker shade of blue. The background of the pillow is a gradient of purple, green and blue. The pillow has tassels attached to each corner and hot pink edging.


This participant’s main special interest, her trusty kick scooter, which is featured in this pillow, is part of how she presents herself to the world. During our conversation, she talked about how she was known around her campus as the girl who rides a scooter and how it even showed up in her class projects. For this person, her special interests – spanning her scooter, New York City, fruit stickers, higher education, and disability justice – relate to who she is and how she creates a sense of belonging.  

She told me that her special interests had changed as she developed understanding of her identities, and that her special interests were an important part of her self-presentation. Perhaps similar to self-advocacy arguments about how autism is not extraneous to a person, she said: “It's like, I'm not holding my autism. I'm not holding my special interests. It's another like multisensorial or like, emotional connection with special interests.” Her emotional connection with her special interests was one she explained as “pure autistic joy…joy that can’t be explained through neurotypical joy.”