03 Feb Study: For Those With Autism, Fixations Can Be Beneficial

February 3, 2017

By: Shaun Heasley
Source: Disability Scoop

Parents and teachers should do more to embrace the preferred interests of those with autism, researchers say, pointing out that such aptitudes can be calming and form the basis for careers.

Individuals on the spectrum often display intense interests in topics like computers, animals or trains. Traditionally, many experts thought that such preferences might inhibit social development.

However, in a new study looking at the experiences of 80 adults with autism ages 18 to 70, researchers said they found otherwise.

“Many of our study participants referred to their preferred interests as a ‘lifeline,’” said Kristie Patten Koenig of New York University who led the study published this week in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health.

Overall, 92 percent of study participants said that their interest areas provide a calming effect for them.

What’s more, the vast majority — 86 percent — said they have a job or are in school or other training that’s related to their preferred area.

Of the adults studied, most reported that their interests were not static over time, with 68 percent saying that they have different preferences as adults than they did as youngsters.

While about half of those surveyed said that their parents were supportive of their intense interests, only 10 percent said their teachers were.

“This highlights an important gap in the educational practices of supporting students on the spectrum and the potential for incorporating their preferred interests in the classroom,” Koenig said.

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