What is normally found with people who have Asperger’s Syndrome is that many are really focused on their personal interests, sometimes to the point where it looks like an obsession. From my experiences, many of the people I work with have their own interests and can become very obsessive over them. Take the two service users I work with most of the time. One likes to read the Teletext pages on his TV to keep abreast of world news and he has a ritual in town where he counts cars. The objective of this is only clear in his mind. The other gentleman has different interests and can border on obsession. He is interested in wars, especially both world ones, naturally disasters and attacks on humans by large predators. I’m talking sharks and crocodiles mainly. He helps to satisfy these interests by purchasing DVDs, post cards and models and if we didn’t keep it in check, would spend all his money on it.
I realized many years ago that my interests have sometimes bordered on obsession, especially when I was a lot younger. Like my client, I too liked war. In fourth grade it was the Native American wars with the US Cavalry and one George Armstrong Custer became a hero of mine. The war interest re-established itself inside my mind in my last three years of high school but this time it was World War II. I began collecting the Time-Life books on it, which I still have.
General George A Custer
However, my interests came and went, sometimes with the school year. In fifth grade, war changed to sports and that changed within itself when I hit sixth grade. My fifth grade interest in American Football gave way to ice hockey. While I still loved those sports in seventh grade, they took a back seat to an interest in the solar system after learning about it in school. I especially have a fondness for the planet Uranus, don’t ask where that came from. Thanks to the film in 1975, my freshman year in high school was spent in what some called obsession of Rollerball. And for those who read my 80smetalman blog, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I had an ongoing love for music, at least hard rock and heavy metal anyway.
My favourite planet other than our own, Uranus
While these interests came and went, they never left my mind totally. My fourth grade interest in General Custer laid dormant in my mind enough for me to write my junior year history essay on the Battle of Little Big Horn. He also propped up when I watched a documentary on the Civil War and was quite pleased that he played a role in the Union victory at Gettysburg, even if it was done by a series of reckless charges. World War 2 interest has always remained with me although like most of America in the 1980s, I too was fascinated with the Vietnam films. I still enjoy watching “Rollerball” and love American football and ice hockey. However, my interest in the planets in our solar system is the most recent one to return.
Of course I can say that my interest in it never left. It made a strong comeback in 1999 when the BBC aired and eight part series called “The Planets.” I really enjoyed that series despite being a little disappointed that NASA found my favourite planet boring when Voyager II flew past. But as it’s the rule with the BBC, if I really like something they show, they never show it again. Recently, I finally purchased the series on DVD and am watching it again. It might be out of date by now, for instance, the planned Cassini mission to Saturn has happened in 2003, but that hasn’t stopped my enjoyment of it. Plus, whenever I get the chance when supply teaching, I will teach a lesson about the solar system.
The problem with having strong interests is how the ‘rest of the world’ perceives it. In school, I was often ridiculed and even bullied for having these strong interests. “Is that all you think about?” was a standard question asked of me a lot during this time. People’s justification for their intolerance and bullying was that my constant talk about my interests annoyed them. However, what I should have said to them back then was their slight ‘annoyance’ was no excuse for violence or threats of it. In many cases, these so called annoyed people simply let it annoy them as an excuse to bully. A simple, “I’m not into that” would have stopped me from talking about it.
I wonder how many people with Asperger’s Syndrome were bullying victims because of people’s ‘annoyance’ with their interest or obsessions. I know Mark was in “He Was Weird” and like when I went through at the time, the adults blamed him for going on too much about his interests. That’s a big trait of someone with ASD. They are interested in it so much, they want to talk about it. Those in the ‘normal’ world need to understand that and while they have every right to not be interested in the interests of another, bullying, intimidation and violence is not the way to get them to stop.
To buy He Was Weird, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1500801442&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird