Restricted Interests In Children With Autism

Restricted Interests In Children With Autism

Having restricted interest is a common characteristic of autism. Children with autism tend to focus in depth on an issue or activity and have difficulties shifting their attention from the area of interest to something else.

This is often a problem in primary education, as in primary education, we aim to introduce children to a wide variety of subjects. Many students with autism would prefer to study in depth specific topics rather than focus on a wide variety of subjects they have little interest in.

However, we know that many autistic adults have transformed those so-called “restricted interests” into their professional careers. So, should we continue to force autistic students to study the broad curriculum and ignore their passions?

Knowing our student’s interest can be a powerful tool for us teachers. Including their interests in the general curriculum can help them gain interests in certain subjects. For example, if a student is very interested in trains, how could we incorporate it into maths or English classes? Can we use train activities to help them interact with their peers?

My son Sebastian loves music and, before covid, he joined the school choir. It was so wonderful to see my son (who had just started joining his mainstream class on a more regular basis) being able to join the choir without any additional support. Using his interest (music) for inclusion worked so well for him. He met other children, same age kids, because of their shared interest in music.

I have also observed many times when working with my students that when we incorporate children’s interest (the so-called “restricted interests”) in their learning, we often see them becoming more motivated and needing less support doing school work.

When looking at children with autism, rather than seeing their “restricted interests” as a deficit and something that needs to be corrected, I invite you to look at this from a different angle.

Discover your student’s interest. They may be interested in flicking pages of a book, Pokemon, the Titanic, or computers. Now find a way to incorporating these into their school routine.

Use that interest as a starting point for learning about other things. Maybe they can write about it, draw a picture, learn history, geography, or perhaps you can use them to help them feel more comfortable and at ease in the classroom.

What are your student’s interests? Have you tried to incorporate their favourite topics in the classroom? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to know.


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