Special Interests as Self-Care (as long as you remember to eat!) (How to be An Autistic Adult… Again)

Four years ago, back when I was just weird and permanently frustrated with myself or other people, rather than probably autistic, I participated in a CrochetAlong. This is where you buy a kit of yarns in different colours and then week by week, the pattern that goes with the kit is released. The idea is that you and a bunch of other people, crochet along together as each part of the pattern is released.

I bought 2 kits – one in the cheaper acrylic and one a beautifully soft merino blend. I had intended to try to do both kits (as I can be a super fast crocheter) but rapidly realised that I would neglect my family responsibilities if that happened. Plus I would never actually finish the acrylic version because the merino yarn was so soft. (In the end, I never finished the acrylic version because life … and the pattern… got too complicated!)

Four years on, and I’m back immersed in that project, but using the soft merino kit that has been hidden in the cupboard, leaking hope and judgement by turns. The kick-start I needed was another CrochetAlong that I want to do. This is kind of a warm-up for that as it’s been a while since I have done proper complicated crochet.

And so I find myself drowning deliciously in treble stitches, pattern repeats and the feel of super soft yarn running through my fingers. The repetitive movement, the counting, the all round squishiness of the squares I’m creating- all are very good for me. Soothes frazzled nerves and feeds a part of my soul that for many years I would occasionally toss scraps to just to get it to keep quiet.

Looking back, I have always been this way. There have always been things that I would dive into head first that would utterly consume me for months or years. As though they were propping up some part of who I was, and then just as suddenly, they would disappear. The magic gone, I would trundle on until something else found me.

Crochet squares. Yes, they have a sprinkling of labrador hair over them.

Sometimes, I can work out what the itch is that each interest is trying to scratch. There’s lego – for colour, and building something and sharing moments with my daughter. Crochet – for using my hands and having “something useful” (plus the whole soft sensory thing). Reading and puzzles to challenge my brain. Writing for processing All The Things. Linoprint has creative expression, sensory elements and silence as its positives.

Understanding that the interest is fulfilling a need, making it easier to cope in the world (or even just cheering me up!) matters. Because that means that it’s not just me going down a rabbit hole that I must follow compulsively. I can choose to examine what is happening and ask myself questions.

– is this a healthy response?

– am I likely to get so absorbed that I forget about food/family/future? And what can I do to manage that?

Many times, I see people writing about using special interests as a sort of currency for autistic kids. That does a disservice to the kids, and the adults they will become. Special interests are not just about rewarding yourself for getting through the day. They might look weird, or make you feel uncomfortable, but they are an interesting and valid part of an autistic person’s existence. They speak to personality, and challenges and character. And who would want to make that into just “currency”?

One thought on “Special Interests as Self-Care (as long as you remember to eat!) (How to be An Autistic Adult… Again)

  1. True story. I am starting to understand the freedom of NOT fighting everyday to be “normal” … NOT beating myself up/allowing others to criticise who I was designed to be. Thanks for the crumbs you left along the path for us 😉


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