In a recent research article by Koenig and Williams (2017), 86 adults with autism were surveyed about their special interests and how they impact their lives. The vast majority of these participants (approximately 96%) believe that children’s preferred interests should be encouraged, however only about 10% of respondents indicated that their teachers were supportive of their interests. A higher percentage (a little over 50%) reported that their parents supported their interests.
A couple of other points of interest from the article:
About 80% of these adults with autism reported that they currently work or are currently in a training program that incorporates their special interests. According to the article, the special interest of individuals with autism can be viewed as relevant to future careers and may lead to a meaningful occupation that utilizes the strengths and talents of the individual with autism.
According to the article, "a large majority of participants felt that focusing on their preferred interests was also a positive and calming experience leading to a decrease in their overall anxiety" (page 8).
As you've probably noticed on my blog, I frequently make my own worksheets, activities, crafts, and lessons that incorporate student interests. This is one of my favorite teaching approaches, so it's cool to see it reflected in research as well. I also love that it seems like more and more research is being conducted about the perspectives of people with autism. I think this is important to consider when educational planning for this this population.
Here are a couple of my favorite resources relating to these topics:
“Thank You, Bob Barker!” - Using Passions, Strengths, and Areas of Special Interest to Support Students on the Spectrum - https://www.paulakluth.com/readings/autism/thank-you-bob-barker/
Naturalistic ABA Pinterest Board: https://www.pinterest.com/positivelyautism/naturalistic-aba/
Naturalistic ABA Idea Group (on Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/groups/219032252355983/
Koenig, K. P., & Williams, L. H. (2017): Characterization and utilization of preferred interests: A survey of adults on the autism spectrum. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, doi: 10.1080/0164212X.2016.1248877.
You can read the article here: https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/Characterization%20and%20Utilization%20of%20Preferred%20Interests%20A%20Survey%20of%20Adults%20on%20the%20Autism%20Spectrum%281%29.pdf