©2020 by Theresa Regan

Autism in the Midst of COVID-19: How to Harness Special Interests for Purpose and Hope

Photo by Dinh Pham on Unsplash


In this post, the autistic individual will consider ways to divert their intense fixation from the novel COVID virus to an enjoyable and purposeful activity.



One of the diagnostic characteristics of autism is the presence of intense interests. Family members or friends may describe the individual as "obsessed" with a particular topic or hobby.


A typical intervention strategy is to encourage the ASD individual to spend less time with her special interest and more time engaged in daily life (e.g., school, work, family activities, and household tasks).


Ironically, the unexpected disruption caused by COVID-19 has left many without a "typical" daily schedule and routine. The void create a vacuum that is often filled with despair rather than hope, paralyzing anxiety rather than purposeful momentum.


HOW TO HARNESS YOUR SPECIAL INTEREST TO REGAIN PEACE


1. Embrace an Enjoyable Interest


Rather than allowing research abut the virus to become your intense fixation, grab hold of an interest that has captivated you in the past. For some of my clients, this is sewing or quilting. Others write creative stories or fan fiction. Many enjoy researching topics such as history or physics.


2. Schedule Breaks Intermittently


Immersion in an enjoyable interest is preferable to a fixation on the virus; however, the autistic brain is often "all in" with an activity or line of research. Be intentional about taking breaks to exercise, sleep, eat nutritious food, and perform hygiene. You'll be amazed at the relief that the balance of activities can bring to your day.


HOW TO HARNESS YOUR SPECIAL INTEREST TO EMBRACE PURPOSE


1. Add Purpose to the Activity


The ASD individual is often slow to consider ways to reach out to others. Many explain that they want others to be doing well, but don't understand how to offer support.


Many special interests could benefit other people during this time of disruption. For example, the individual who loves to sew could make lap blankets for neighbors as a surprise gift. The individual who writes stories may focus on writing an uplifting hero story to post on an online forum. An autistic who loves theater could organize a live stream sing-along with other theater lovers.



Although individuals on the spectrum may need prompting to develop a new and purposeful strategy for daily life, many will feel a refreshing motivation when able to incorporate their favorite interests. The satisfaction can be magnified when they are given a purposeful and structured role.


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