Stage 1: Introduction
Stage 1 can happen in many different ways, not all of which will necessarily be covered in this article. One way that Introduction can happen is if a family member, friend, or classmate recommends something to you. For example, I first got interested in my current special interest, musical theatre, because my friend, Layla, is also obsessed with it, and she made me listen to the Hamilton soundtrack. Needless to say, I was hooked.
Another common way that individuals on the autism spectrum discover their special interests is that they randomly stumble upon it while surfing the Web. My special interest in 8th and 9th grade was a band called Fifth Harmony (I still like them), and I discovered them while perusing YouTube one day when I had nothing better to do.
Stage 2: Research and Memorization
Once an individual finds their special interest, every waking hour of their day is spent learning as much as they can about this newfound subject. They are like a dry sponge, absorbing every bit of information they can possibly find about this topic. In the case of my Fifth Harmony special interest, I would spend all of my free time watching their music videos and interviews. Because of our superhuman ability to memorize a large quantity of information, people on the autism spectrum tend to remember every single detail they learn about their special interests.
Stage 3: Blabbering
You know how in preschool, they say “sharing is caring”? That’s the mentality that a person with a new special interest adopts. The individual will spout information about their special interest to anyone who is willing to listen, or sit there and zone out while pretending to pay rapt attention to them (the latter happens far more frequently than the former). This is usually the point in time at which the school bully or an adult who, in theory, is supposed to help you, but does quite the opposite in practice, tells you (either politely or not-so-politely) to shut your pie hole.
Stage 4: The Fandom
The Fandom is the group of people from every corner of the globe who come together on the Internet to celebrate their common interest in a certain topic. After a certain period of time, the individual with the special interest finds this community and establishes their place within it. They make some new friends and rivals, but overall enjoy their experience in the Fandom.
Stage 5: New Discovery
After a period of time ranging from a few months to several years, the individual will either outgrow or get sick of their current special interest, or they will discover something they like even more than their current special interest. In my case, my Fifth Harmony obsession ended a few months ago because they kept putting out anti-feminist songs and music videos and, while the music itself had a pretty good beat and melody and the band was talented, the messages they were sending began to seriously tick me off. However, most individuals keep pieces of their special interests with them, and lots of people have several special interests at a time. Currently, my special interests are dance, musical theatre, and a singing-competition TV show called The Voice.
I have had tons of special interests over the course of my lifetime, and even though I’ve moved on from a lot of them, I still look back on them from time to time, and it makes me happy to think of the many happy memories I associate with previous special interests.