One of the hallmarks of Asperger’s Syndrome is the intense interest in one subject.
When I first read a statement like this, it meant nothing to me. After all, don’t we all get interested in things? Go on photography kicks, collect things, talk too much about our kids, or get absorbed in music?
The words do not do justice to the phenomenon. It’s like saying the sun is bright. The degree of intensity is left out.
An “intense interest” in a subject should translate to something just short of obsession. Some might even use the word obsession. To me, however, “obsession” indicates an unhealthy mindset, which does not fit; Asperger’s Syndrome is about a different way of thinking, not health. A healthy brain that functions differently.
By the way, I love this particular aspect of Asperger’s syndrome. It’s what makes the difference between mastery of a particular subject, and someone who’s merely read about it for a while (or studied it for years, even). Mastery vs. knowledgeable.
And there’s a place in society for someone who has mastered and totally grasped every angle of a subject. Our world experts on beetles – or whatever subject you like – will likely have Asperger’s Syndrome.
Sure, the rest of us have interests. We’ll get buried in music – I have the strains of Ave Maria floating through my head right now, for instance, as it’s a piece I’m working on turning into a quartet – or take photographs of cats, or do any of hundreds of absorbing things.
But it’s about intensity. The intensity of the sun vs. the intensity of a floodlight.
My little floodlight can put out a lot of intensity. I can think of music, and only music, and hear the same song for days. Eventually, it’ll make me ill, and I’ll want to run screaming.
But my son will never get ill from thinking about his subject. His intensity will burn on for months. And that subject, whether it’s Harry Potter or Star Wars or Chess, will turn in his mind constantly. He’ll be quiet for a while and then jump out with a Chess question, and we’ll know it’s been churning in his mind the entire time.
It’s fascinating. It’s interesting. I love that my boys have this love of learning that leaves them wanting more and more.
For our kids, it can mean a love of dictionaries and almanacs and catalogs. That may seem weird to some; but really it boils down to wanting information. Learning, and loving the learning process.
How cool is that?
I could say a whole lot more on this, and am itching to do so. But it’s not necessary. Whether mastery leads to a happy, satisfying career (say, from an interest in pipes and drains to a career in plumbing), or private enjoyment, a love of learning is admirable in itself. It’s satisfying in itself.
And if we get tired of hearing about the same subject, it’s up to us to be direct about it; but never should we stop being supportive. Owning knowledge is like owning treasure. And our loved ones are millionaires.