Chapter 3: Enthusiasms
“Sometimes a single word can change your perspective forever” (53).
“Perhaps focusing on one topic gives the child a sense of control, of predictability and security in a world that can be unpredictable and feel scary” (54).
This focus on one topic is called an “enthusiasm.” Essentially, it’s a topic that an individual with autism is passionate, but obsessed with and talks about it all the time. Some examples are a particular type of animal, like dogs; or train stations and the train schedule.
“She saw enthusiasm as a source of potential rather than an impediment or a problem” (56).
This anecdote is in reference to a teacher who took her student’s enthusiasm for cars and adapted it into a project for him to complete that allowed him to be successful academic and interact with other teachers. If other individuals that work with people with autism could follow in this teacher’s footsteps, it would be beneficial for everyone involved.
“That I maintain these modest collections doesn’t make me unusual. And that’s the point. Nearly everyone has passions and interest. They fill a need; they give us pleasure; they make us feel good for reasons we may not always understand. They’re part of being human” (57).
The author talks about his collection of carvings, and how collecting doesn’t make you “weird.” It’s just one way to express a passion or interest. Individuals with autism display their passions and interests, or enthusiasms, more so than individuals without autism because they focus all of their energy and emotions into them.
“These deep interests can help children stay more engaged and attentive. They can be used to motivate learning and to enable participation in situations that might otherwise be difficult” (60).
“One significant reason many children focus on a particular topic is that it gives them a safe place to start a conversation. Even the most obscure, out-of-context, and seemingly irrelevant question can be a strategy to connect” (63).
“…it’s not as simple as just stopping the child’s behavior. As always, the first step is asking what is underlying the behavior” (69).
“For a person with autism, social interactions can provoke anxiety and confusion because they have no fixed structure and one can’t always predict what another person will say. So a person with autism will try to create predictability by limiting the conversation to an area in which he has mastery” (69).
Thank you for reading this post! I hope you enjoyed it and continue to read the upcoming posts on Uniquely Human by Barry Prizant. 🙂 ❤