Autism makes people different. They behave differently in social settings, and they can be bothered by various sensory issues like different textures and sounds. One thing that people with Autism have in common with N.T.s (neuro-typicals), or those without autism is interests. Sometimes those interests maybe very different from the norm and other times they can be quite similar. The best way to explain this concept is through example, so I will talk about some of my interests.
Video Games, and board games are two interests of mine, that are shared by many people around the world. With video games, my favorite system is the 8-bit Nintendo (actually I usually play the Japanese version of the games on the Famicom, which is the Japanese Nintendo, due to a unique opportunity I had to get a system and games). For the most part, I prefer the games that I have played as a child, as compared to those that I have been introduced to later. The Mega Man series would have to be my favorite series, though I also really like the Super Mario Bros. series, and Disney games such as Chip ‘N’ Dale Rescue Rangers and Talespin.
I do play other Nintendo systems and enjoy them. I tend to purchase the newest Nintendo consoles when they come out, and I think they have good games. For example, I have a Nintendo Switch. Back when my brother lived at home (now he teaches English in Taiwan) we loved to spend the evening playing various Mario Kart Games, and also Mario Party Games. When he comes home, we still play Mario Kart games in the evening.
I also like a variety of types of games. I like thinking games like Chess, and Scrabble. I also like games such as Dominoes, Parchesi, Battleship, Uno, etc. I like some card games such as Solitaire, War, and Rummy. I also still enjoy games from my childhood such as Candyland.
I also like science, in particular chemistry and astronomy. When my friend would come over, we would spend time discussing space, and I would tell him facts that I read on the internet, about astronomy, and try to teach him a little chemistry.
I like tasting craft beers. When I turned 21, I was introduced to normal American beers like most people, but discovered more flavorful beers, after my brother returned from a college semester in Germany. We got introduced to craft beer. I really like dark beers such as stouts, porters, and barley-wines (a strong type of beer). I enjoy going to brew pubs, and like getting their beer flights, which are small cups, each filled with a sample of the beers they make. This is something else that my brother and I would like to do. When my family went on vacations (before Dave went to Taiwan), my brother and I would want to find the brew pub in the location we were going to. I still like to go, but have to talk my dad into wanting to go. He prefers light beers and wine, and my mom hates both the smell and taste of beer.
A reader would think all these interests seem normal, right? I can’t really find anything different or unusual that was described. Well, just wait until I describe my other interests!
I like numbers. I’m not talking about algebra problems, calculus, or trigonometry problems, but plain old numbers. I like the way, the words for the numbers sound in English. I like the symbols, that a lot of the world uses for these numbers. To me, they are like pieces of art. In case you were wondering, each number looks different to me, even if it is comprised of the same digits, but in a different order. The number 79, to me, is different looking than the number 97, and I prefer the former. The number 8,888 might be comprised of all 8s, but looks different to me, than the number 8 by itself, or the number 88. I enjoy figuring out prime numbers. I have all the prime numbers between 2 and 997 memorized (note I put a prime number on each end). I also enjoy number sequences, which is when you take a number and repeatedly perform an operation on it. The kind of sequences I perform involve taking a number, and repeatedly adding or subtracting some number. An example of a sequence I would do is: 2,9,16,23,30… This particular one starts on 2 and each number is generated by adding 7. There are other types of number sequences out there. I can count by bizarre numbers like 7, 9, and even higher numbers like 13. I find it annoying when people want to do everything by fives. 5 is a boring number because it is over used, and the number sequence, start on 5 and repeated add 5, has little variation (all numbers end in either 5 or 0), and most of the numbers I like, happen to end in the other digits.
I like Christmas, who doesn’t? What is different about my interest is the intensity. Most people will think about Christmas around Thanksgiving (if in the United States), or probably sometime in November elsewhere, and will start taking down their decorations sometime in January. I tend to start thinking about Christmas seriously in September when it starts to get cold. I am the one, who looks at Christmas stuff in the store, when it first comes out instead of the Halloween stuff. In September of 3rd grade, my first story written for school started like this: “I like putting the ornaments on the tree.”
On the other side of the spectrum, I don’t want the family Christmas Tree to be taken down. It takes a long time to convince me to actually take it down for the season. I also don’t like when other people turn off, or take down their Christmas lights for the year. I call the lack of lights during this time of year, “January Lights.” In January I milk as many trips to look at Christmas lights as I can, until people have them all taken down. As for the tree, back when I was living at Hiram G. Andrews Center (a college for students with disabilities) I left my tree up until April. I then took it down, because I discovered I wasn’t turning it on anymore, and it was getting in the way. I have a desktop wooden Christmas tree up as I am typing this post, and had it up since it was given to me last year.
Roads are another interest of mine. I take many trips, just to see where the roads go. A large list of roads in Adams County that I had driven on helped me decide to start my project, of traveling on all of the public roads in Adams County. I also have an interest in all the U.S. highways and Interstate highways in the United States. These are the United States version of long-range highways that traverse the country. I studied them, and where they went, initially in road atlases, and then on the computer. By the way, I also collect road atlases. Though not popular today, I still want a new atlas every year for Christmas. I also have an old road atlas from 1951 which shows the United States before the Interstate Highway Era started.
I really love balloons. My room looks like a perpetual birthday party is going on. One of my favorite places to go is to Party City to look at their balloons. I look at the balloons on the shelf, and at the balloon arches and sculptures that they make. Their balloons are perfectly round and shiny. I could stay there all day and watch them and listen to them blow up their helium balloons. If I know someone is going up to the counter to buy some balloons, and/or I hear the sound of their helium tank, I will stop what I am doing, and watch. I want to see what color balloons they are blowing up. I also go to the party section in stores like Wal-Mart to look at balloons as well.
Another thing I like doing is reading balloon reviews on Amazon. I go on their website, and read what people say about the different balloons that they have for sale. In particular, I like the reviews that mention how easy the balloons are to blow up, and/or talk about how big they get.
Another interesting opportunity I had pertaining to my interest of balloons, was touring the balloon factory in Ohio. A counselor I had at the time, helped arrange it, and my family drove the whole way out to Ashland, Ohio, so I could see in person how balloons were made, and ask about getting squiggly balloons (a special type of balloon I was looking for.) Squiggly balloons are my name for any bumpy or curvy long balloons. The company called them novelty balloons.
As indicated in an earlier blog entry, I like the color green. When I have a choice in color, you can bet I will pick green. I like having green paint charts, so I can look at many different shades. The color green sometimes has made picking my glasses’ frame easy. If the store has a green frame that fits, it’s the one I’ll take. Not much time wasted!
As you may have noticed, I have many interests. Some are quite normal, and some not so much. This is how autism works. An individual with autism gets interests in various areas. Sometimes these areas are helpful, and can help them in social situations, or can help them get jobs, and other times they aren’t all that helpful. The person with autism doesn’t get to pick, and choose interests that will help him or her with their future. The individual will simply select what appeals to them like most people. Sometimes the interests don’t push them ahead in life or help them socially though.
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