Presentation on theme: " Making the Most of the Special Interest Associate Professor Kate Sofronoff School of Psychology University of Queensland."— Presentation transcript:
Making the Most of the Special Interest Associate Professor Kate Sofronoff School of Psychology University of Queensland
What is it? A preoccupation Can be all consuming Can be an intense need to be occupied with the interest Can change Forms parts of the Restricted, Repetitive Behaviours and Interests diagnostic criteria
What does it Look Like? In young children can be a repetitive behaviour or activity Collecting….. Objects or examples Often moves on to collecting information To wanting to be engaged in the activity a lot Wanting to talk about the subject Can be an obsession one day and suddenly never spoken of again
What is the Function of the Special Interest? Relaxation The familiarity can have a calming effect It is predictable, not confusing like a lot of other things Self esteem This is something I am good at and comfortable with Totally absorbing Can lose oneself in it It is enjoyable
Is it Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? No, it is quite different from OCD OCD is an anxiety disorder Non-functional repetitive behaviour (compulsive behaviour) is used to reduce anxiety felt because of an obsession (e.g. a fear of dirt or germs) A person with OCD is compelled to engage in the repetitive behaviour but does not enjoy it
Is it a Hobby It can sometimes start as a hobby People pursue a hobby in leisure time but they can let it go at other times A special interest is all consuming and could take up ALL of a person’s time It may also be of little interest to other people Unlikely to be playing golf or cricket or football But could be an interest in particular players and scores across decades
What are Some Common Areas of Special Interest Computers and computer games Cars, trains and heavy machinery Mechanical devices Collecting information on a specific topic – batting averages of famous cricketers Animals (more common in girls) Space and science and science fiction
In Young Children Thomas the Tank Engine Use to teach colours Use to teach numbers Ask questions, who, why, where, how Helps to increase language and understanding Use as part of a social story Sometimes Thomas gets stuck at the crossing because it is someone else’s turn to cross I will try to be like Thomas and wait quietly for my turn
How Much Access If a child has unlimited access to their special interest we lose the opportunity to use it for contingent reinforcement Reward for behaviour we want to increase We can teach the concept of ‘give and take’ or ‘compromise’ by allowing controlled access “yes, you can play your game as soon as you have …….” “yes, if you …… then you can play your game.”
Allow Access When the child is feeling stressed Perhaps at the end of a day at school (limit time and include additional strategies such as trampoline or listening to music) The idea is to extend the resources available to the child As a reward for anything good happening (limit time and include additional rewards) The idea is to build a bank of things that can help the child feel good To build resilience and the capacity to manage stress
Do Not Allow Access To stop bad behaviour Otherwise bad behaviour earns access (reward) If it means the child then avoids a chore or task that is important Avoidance is rewarded If it will severely disrupt the activities of someone else It is important to learn that others have rights and that ‘give and take’ is important
Emotion Regulation Can be a big issue for a child with Asperger syndrome Sometimes parents will give in to avoid a tantrum Problem with waiting for what is wanted Controlled access to a special interest can help in this process of learning to wait
School Aged Children Can the special interest be used in the classroom? Access as a reward Can it be used to facilitate learning? Extend reading, use in arithmetic, to make explanations more meaningful Can it be used to facilitate social interactions? Can the child help others in some way? Can it be used to enhance confidence? Positive comments about knowledge or skill Self esteem?
How Could This Happen Teacher education – a top down approach Creative solutions Knowledge of strategies that work Exploration of differences in children Everyone has strengths and weaknesses Tolerance of differences Tendency to like people who are similar PLUs Education broadens the mind and increases tolerance
Celebration of Difference Who do we know that is really good at something? How did that person get to be really good? What did s/he need to do? Spend a lot of time, and effort and energy. Give up some other things Did that person have any difficulties?
Bill Gates What was he like as a young person? Excellent memory for facts Failed to form peer relationships Spent a lot of time in the library What did he do? Single-minded pursuit of computer expertise at the expense of many other things including graduating from college Did he have friends? With older students and associates Noted for not taking the ideas or feelings of others into account Has this single mindedness been a setback for him?
Albert Einstein Became interested in mathematics at age 12 Described himself as very concerned about issues of social justice but did not want to spend much time with people, even his family Eccentric and a very confusing speaker – many social/emotional deficits Extreme focus on one area Best known for the Theory of Relativity. 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics
The Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney Do either of them seem to have traits of AS? Did they have a special interest? Did they pursue it to the exclusion of other things? Did they insist on playing music that was different from what was currently popular?
Pick an Artist Do they ALL have Asperger syndrome? Do they ALL have a special interest? The difference may be that the child with AS develops a special interest It is called an obsession It interferes with activities thought to be more important The talented adult is seen differently Very driven, very ambitious, perfectionist
Think Creatively Take 5 minutes with the people beside you to think of a special interest that you know about What are the broad characteristics of this interest? E.G. :- Mathematical Visual Order, attention to detail How could this interest be used to foster other skills, self esteem or resilience? In what sort of workplace settings might the skills that come with this interest be acceptable? In what sort of social settings might this type of interest be more acceptable?
Can we Shape the Interest Most people with Asperger syndrome are not geniuses If they are to succeed in finding a meaningful occupation we need to work towards this The person needs to work in an area they like and that doesn’t cause them too much stress or anxiety Not everyone can work directly in the area of their special interest Are there areas related to the interest? Are the characteristics of the interest ones that are useful in certain types of jobs?
Why do we Work? Sometimes because we want to pursue a particular career/interest This is not the most common pathway Often because it was the job we got and we don’t mind it Often because we recognize that we need the money to pay for the things we want Reflects a preparedness to work in an area that is not our specific interest so that we can have the things we need
Compromise is Important This idea that we work outside our specific interest may not come naturally It is part of the idea of ‘compromise’ or ‘give and take’ and needs to be developed over time If you want to paint or be an actor May work as a shop assistant to earn money If you want to play computer games May need to work in an unrelated area to afford this
In Conclusion The special interest should be valued It can be used to broaden learning To introduce new information, skills and strategies To teach about compromise and ‘give and take’ To assist with emotion regulation The characteristics of the interest will give us a key to the type of work that may be appropriate for an individual
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