Since my wife and I got involved in a parent support group, we’ve found that many of moments of ‘bonding’ between parents have been during discussions of their child’s special interests. Some of the special interests seem so unusual that it can be a huge relief to parents when we meet others whose children share the special interest.
I offer the following list in the spirit of sharing, and with a little concern that someone may misinterpret this list as belittling or making fun. I’ve been known to have a laugh over some of the special interests but no more so than I have over my own quirks. For the most part, thoughts of these special interests put a smile on my face, because they are part of who my sons are. My wife and I have gone out of our way and put both time or money into every item on the list. It’s usually a lot of fun.
So here’s the list, in roughly in order of the ages in which they appeared, with interest of both boys intermixed:
- Light switches – This was the first interest that we noticed and was the first sign that clued in a family friend that my son may have an ASD.
- Watching a sing along video tour of Disneyland.
- Wheels on Cars – Big pickup trucks with “deulies” were a big favorite.
- Backup lights on cars – This was an obvious growth on lights and cars. It’s also the only special interest that brought safety concerns. Watching a 4-5 year old run to the rear of vehicles as they were backing up in order to see the lights is rather frightening
- Buzz Lightyear – There was a period where my son put his Buzz Lightyear Halloween costume on every single day.
- Playing a handheld Wheel of Fortune game, even though my son couldn’t spell. I met a mother who was very relieved to hear my boys interest lasted longer than the game did and we had to replace it. Her son had gone through two and was on the third.
- Electricity – after we built a house my son used an electrical outlet tester and found several outlets that the electrician wired wrong. He later fixed the microwave. OK, he actually just unplugged it and plugged it back in, but it started working again and we were ready to buy another
- Fire Alarms – Within seconds of walking into a room or building, my son will know where the fire alarms and emergency lights are located. The sounds of the alarms also causes a lot of anxiety
- Books – Although the books change from time to time, there is usually a favorite that travels everywhere and often gets put under the pillow at night.
- Elevators – We go out of our way for an elevator ride. On a business trip, I once took a picture of the elevator in the hotel and emailed it home to my son. He was thrilled.
- Our golden retriever, Stitch. There’s also been a long term interest in Snoopy.
- Light Sabers – We have two boys at home and probably a dozen toy light sabers. We have every color, ones that light up, a double sided one, one that can be made into dozens of shapes. This week we got an interactive TV video game in which you hold a light saber and duel with characters on the TV.
- Trains – A trip last year on Amtrak from Pennsylvania to Connecticut was a thrill for my son. He looked out the window for five hours straight, mesmerized.
- Railroad crossings – The ones with gates on both sides and lots of lights are best.
- Color Laser printers – a current interest. I’m asked to buy one at least once a day. It’s also becoming a significant distraction in educational and therapeutic settings.