Special interests and repetitive behaviors can span to reach different interests, autism and foot obsession, collecting garbage, and other interests that others may not understand. Parents can start to wonder why their autistic child has these behaviors and interests and if there is something they can do about them.
Why is your child fascinated by feet? They may like the way feet or toes move or how people walk. Parents can always start a conversation with their child’s doctor if they are ever concerned with their child’s behaviors and interests. The doctor can refer them to another specialist who could provide the child and parent with support and clarity.
What are special interests, and what do they have to do with autism?
Exploring one’s interests can bring joy and lead to engaging hobbies. However, intense or highly restricted interests may limit social interactions depending on their intensity.
The prevalence of these interests is higher among autistic children versus their neurotypical counterparts. They can become problems when the child has difficulty accomplishing daily tasks and school work.
Depending on how the child diagnosed with autism may interact with a classmate, teacher, or other people, an interest in something like feet may cause additional problems.
When parents or caregivers discuss what is acceptable with the child, setting safe and healthy boundaries, they can feel confident in themselves and whatever interests they have.
What is the reason behind autism and foot obsession?
Pinpointing the reason behind certain behaviors and interests can be difficult because they are specific to each child. For instance, a child may have watched Dino Dan on television and become so interested in it that it becomes all they talk about.
In another instance, a parent may have read the Foot Book by Dr. Seuss, and now their child continually plays with their and their siblings’ feet. Those are just some examples of how a child can enjoy something instantly.
If boundaries have been set and parents, caregivers, and teachers are aware of the child’s interests, they can add something the child may enjoy throughout the day.
They can also allow special times, like during their conversations with the child, where they listen to what the child wants to say. Then, the parents can share something they like or find interesting.
Practicing talking back and forth can help the child understand and start listening to what others would like to say. It is important to gauge the conversation with a peer to ensure no one is uncomfortable during the conversation and that there is a continuous flow back and forth.
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Are there benefits to having special interests?
Although there are times that special interests may distract from the flow of conversation and interacting with others, there are some incredible benefits. One major advantage is that special interests may lead to a passion for that subject and a successful and fulfilling career.
People like Temple Grandin, Autumn Van Kirk, and Elon Musk have all taken their special interests and now have successful careers that also help others. Having access to quality therapists, specialists, teachers, and other practitioners can be a great start.
I once talked to a parent who told me it all depends on your team, which includes your child’s speech therapist, occupational therapist, and more.
Having supportive parents and family members also are ways that help build a child up and give them the foundation they need to succeed.
Where can a parent start?
Parents can start by talking to their doctors. If the doctor cannot answer the parents’ questions, they can refer the child to a specialist.
After that, the parents may need to make appointments to meet with other specialists and practitioners who may require an assessment of their child. That way, the specialist has a starting point from which they can discuss with the parents and decide what goals should be created.
Parents can know that their child is receiving specialized support to help them grow and develop the skills needed to succeed.
Q: What are the most common obsessions in autism?
A: Common obsessions in autism often include intense interests in specific topics or objects, such as trains, numbers, animals, gardening, or certain patterns. These fixations can provide comfort and familiarity to individuals on the autism spectrum.
Q: Why do autistic kids like to be barefoot?
A: Autistic children may prefer to be barefoot as they may find the sensory experience more comfortable and less overwhelming than wearing shoes. The tactile sensations of different surfaces can have a calming effect on some autistic individuals.
Q: What is feet stimming?
A: Feet stimming refers to a self-stimulatory behavior involving repetitive movements or actions involving the feet, often observed in individuals with autism or sensory processing issues. These actions may include tapping, rocking, or other rhythmic motions that provide sensory input and comfort.
Q: Why do children with autism rub their feet together?
A: Children with autism may rub their feet together as a self-soothing or sensory-seeking behavior, providing comfort or stimulation. It can be a way for them to regulate sensory input and find a sense of calmness.
Laber-Warren, E. (2021). The benefits of special interests in autism: Researchers are studying how the intense passions of autistic people shape the brain, improve well-being, and enhance learning. https://www.spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/the-benefits-of-special-interests-in-autism/
Anthony, L., Harms, M., James, J., Jankowski, K., Kenworthy, L., Martin, A., Wallace, G., & Yerys, B. (2013). Interests in high-functioning autism are more intense, interfering, and idiosyncratic, but not more circumscribed, than those in neurotypical development.
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