“I wish people knew our interests are not special. They're just interests.”
This participant shared that they thought autistic people's interests were just like those of other people. However, they thought that the benefits that all people get from engaging in interests can be more important for autistic people because of a more constant need for self-regulation. For example, this person shared that their interests, which frequently involved being out in nature, provided good opportunities to get into a flow state and regulate sensory processing. This is “especially important when I am stressed, overwhelmed by sensory processing dysfunction, or depressed,” they told me.
This participant noted that autism is highly medicalized, which means that people are prone to focusing on the visible aspects of autism that seem unusual, while ignoring the underlying neurocognitive processes that might be different. “Interests are an important part of learning,” this educator shared. “Trying to medicalize and especially to suppress peoples' interests is literally the opposite of what cognitive science says we should do.”