Intense Interests and ASD

A new study published online provides insight into the intense interests exhibited by those with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC). In summary, they can be a very positive thing.   

The intense interests exhibited by those on the Autistic Spectrum are often seen as a barrier to education and gainful employment when they can often be a pathway for achieving a happy and productive life. 

People on the Autistic Spectrum often experience significantly higher levels of anxiety, as a population, than their atypical counterparts. This can make it harder for them to handle day to day activities especially in the social arena. A high proportion of the participants in this study reported they felt a significant reduction in their levels of anxiety while they engaged in activities related to their intense interest. A reduction in anxiety makes it easier for the mind to concentrate and retain information, which is vital for learning and staying on task. It therefore stands to reason that those on the spectrum will perform better at school or in the workplace if the tasks they are required to perform are related to their area of intense interest.  

In an educational context, this could mean using the interest as a vector for learning, or at the very least as a reward for participation. In an employment context, the interest could be used to earn an income. There are many examples of this throughout history and in the world today. All you need to do is look at the success achieved by many of today’s entrepreneurs. I’m sure Bill Gates was often told to stop focusing so much on computer programming and focus more on the ‘real world’.   

This study is by no means the final word on this topic, however, it does provide us with some interesting insight particularly in the field of education.