Diagnostic criteria for autism are always so badly written.
Like, the trains thing.
I’m going to keep coming back to the trains thing because it baffles me.
So, the example used for special interests in a lot of diagnostic criteria is trains.
“Has an unusually strong interest in something - for example, trains”
And, like, sure. Okay. Special interests can be anything. Trains are a possibility.
But, like, special interests don’t appear out of nowhere. You generally have to be exposed to something first to get a special interest in it.
So, like, I know a lot of autistic people, and I know no one with a special interest in trains.
You know what the most common special interest is, in my experience?
Yeah, go fucking figure, the ubiquitous movie franchise that almost everyone has seen at least one movie of is the most common special interest, in my experience.
Now, I do kind of understand the trains thing. The line between special interest and regular interest isn’t always super obvious.
Like, collecting Star Wars toys, or writing Star Wars fanfic, or marathoning the movies a bunch of times doesn’t necessarily make it a special interest.
And since it’s socially acceptable (especially in modern day nerd culture) to do all of those things, it’s not a glaring indicator of autism to outsiders.
If someone’s really into something obscure - like trains - however, it can make the fact that it’s a special interest super obvious.
But it’s still bad to have it be the go-to special interest example because it’s just not that common.
Plenty of autistic people don’t have obscure special interests. Their SIs are in the Marvel movies or Star Wars or Star Trek or Five Nights at Freddy’s.
Hell, part of the problem with women and girls not getting diagnosed is because no one notices their special interests in, like, makeup or boy bands.
When you use “trains” as the example, you’re sending the implicit message that special interests have to be obscure and out of the social norm, and that’s just not the case for most people - especially now that a lot of geek culture has gone mainstream and there’s a huge nostalgia cash-in.
Having a special interest in Power Rangers was weird for me when I was 14. It’s not now that it’s a big blockbuster movie and most people exposed to the internet review-sphere are at least aware of Linkara’s History of Power Rangers.
Special interests don’t have to be outside the social norm to be special interests. It’s how the autistic person feels about them and engages with them that defines it.