Interests can serve as calming mechanisms for the brain with Aspergers

The fact that special interests can serve as calming mechanisms is largely true for neuro-typical persons as well. Think of your favorite interests outside of your job and your family.

What do you enjoy doing when left to your own devices? Some common interests include the following:

  • Reading
  • Gardening
  • Sports
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Photography
  • Exercising
  • Shopping
  • Traveling
  • Collecting Items

Whatever your interest[s] might be, you probably find them enjoyable, fulfilling, and even relaxing.  The interesting thing about interests is that one person’s most favorite activity/thing might be another person’s least favorite thing to do.

Shopping might be a relaxing and enjoyable activity for someone as they comb through racks and racks until they find that crazy deal of all deals! That very same experience might cause stress and even heart palpitations for another as they search for the nearest exit. As with most strategies, interests are highly individualized.

For persons with Aspergers, interests may take many forms and be especially intense.

I often find that the level of intensity for the interest is a reflection of the inner stress level. The greater the stress, the greater the need for the interest, or source of calm and certainty, presents itself. So while we must take all measures to reduce stress through structure, we must also be prepared to provide opportunities to engage in the specific interest throughout the day.

I have found that sprinkling interests throughout the day helps to have a more successful outcome in every area.

Some interests are more challenging to incorporate throughout the day than others, but we can be creative in how we do so.  One simple and discreet way to do this is to decorate a strategy with a picture of the interest. Then, every time the student uses the strategy, they also get a dose of pleasure and calm from their particular interest. This is especially true if the interest is outside of what typical peers might consider age appropriate.

In my first years as a teacher in the early 1980’s, we gave students with significant cognitive disabilities baby toys, mobiles, rattles and the like. As we became more enlightened about human dignity and respect regarding this population, we took a completely different mindset. If a person of that same age would not find it of interest or age appropriate, then we will not present it or allow it for the person with a disability. While I carried that banner for a while, experience has taught me to have a broader understanding of how to approach this sensitive and important issue.

I have found many, many of the students that I have worked with to be drawn in an inexplicable way to a certain character or thing that few of their age group would find interesting.

For example, take the high school students that love Barney, Disney movies, Elmo, Sesame Street and on and on. Their passion for it is so great that I now feel it is disrespectful to deny their most treasured source of joy, pleasure and even peace.

I do try to provide their age-inappropriate source of joy in more discrete ways when possible. Decorate a schedule or a transition marker with Barney instead of walking down the hall with a Barney doll or costume.

I think we can work it out without making it a black or white issue.

Do you know any adults with a train set or doll collection in their garage?

By Lisa Rogers

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Gabriela Lemos was born in Porto Alegre, Brasil, and was raised in San Antonio, Texas. She is currently a student at UTSA, graduating in December 2014 with a Bachelor degree in English. Brie states that she loves language and words, and the way in which people communicate with each other. She has always been interested and attracted to the autism community. “I find those on the spectrum to be incredible in so many ways, and I believe we can all learn from each other in our different strengths and weaknesses. I would love to use my talents to aid those who are not as strong in areas which I have confidence, and in turn receive an infinite amount of lessons and aid from those who I work with. Everything you send out, comes back to you, and I plan to practice sending out love and compassion every day”. We feel so fortunate to offer Brie’s talent of writing as well as her passion for autism awareness every week through our Aspergers101 Weekly.

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9 thoughts on “Interests can serve as calming mechanisms for the brain with Aspergers

  1. Thank you so very much Mitchell! We appreciate it and will keep going with encouragement like that. We are soon to add an employment section so please keep checking back and let us know how we are doing!

    • Thank you! Let us know if we can make this resource any better or if you would like to see additional content pertaining to Aspergers/High Functioning Autism.

  2. GREAT awareness. I did not realize my ex had Aspergers until 20 years too late. Had I known why he was so obsessive over the same 2 things in life (I was 3rd), I would have had a much happier life with him. I’m so happy we know these things now!

    • I am fulfilling mm desire to learn all I can about Aspergers. I have discover that some individuals in my community look at it as a Stigma. I my personal study research has shown me that those who are high functioning Aspergers have great talent. There is Job fair in New York that as vendors from major corporations searching for individuals with high skills in the technology sectors even though disabilities exist.

  3. Hello. ..I have just come across this site by typing in Google how to recover from a meltdown. I had a very bad Meldon yesterday & I am shattered today so I’m resting…well trying to. I’m also wanting to find out about these meltdowns. I know they occur from high anxiety & stress. I have been doing so well lately. ..my only daughter has excluded me mainly because she cannot understand my ways…I was diagnosed 5 yr ago with high functioning aspergers. My daughter doesn’t agree that I have it so I have no support at all from her. Sorry for going on …but I’m so glad I came across this site. I have signed up for your newsletter.