The Center for Proactive Medicine; Paige Adams, FNP, B-C's Facebook Wall 2014-01-01 12:44:28
Autism Discussion PageFixations = Interests = Strengths = Learning! Fixated interests serve a variety of functions for children on the spectrum: 1. Fixations (interests, passions) often give children something they can control, that are understandable and predictable for them. Categorizing them, arranging them, learning everything there is to know about them helps the children feel safe in a world that is difficult to understand. 2. Fixations help children bring order to a world that is often chaotic and confusing. It allows the child to hyper-focus on one or two things that he can understand; that is predictable, for which he feels some degree of mastery over. 3. The ability to “hyper-focus” attention on an interest is a common characteristic of ASD. People often see this as a negative characteristic, but can also be reframed and viewed as a strength. This hyper-focus on a passion is what drives learning and development of ideas. This is what drives Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to create wonderful products at Microsoft and Apple. These hyper-focused fixations have lead to wonderful works of art, science, and technology. 4. These fixations are often centered around “static”, unchanging information: objects, facts, rules, and physical qualities, that do not change, or change based on concrete rules. This allows children to learn “facts” about their passion, and feel competent knowing “everything there is to know.” They understand their passions, learn facts about them; making them predictable and easy to control. 5. Another ASD characteristic influencing fixations is the “focus on detail.” This focus on detail can drive a child with ASD to stay hyper-focused on an interest to learn everything about it. This can also drive a strong need for “knowledge of causation” (knowing “why” something works). They want to break it down and understand each detail of why it works. In turn, this can lead to the drive to make things “work better”, and make better products. 6. These fixations also allow the child to “hyper-focus” in on a narrow interest in order to block out, escape and avoid overload from the fast paced world that is difficult to process. It gives them an escape from the sensory overload, social insecurities, stress and anxiety of their typical day. They can escape into a world that is understandable, predictable, and controllable; a world for which they feel “competent”. 7. Fixations are often sensory based, which help calm and organize the nervous system. They sooth and “feel good!” They release stress chemicals and are great coping skills for tackling stress and anxiety. We all have sensory stimulation that we seek simply because it “feels good!” 8. Socially, fixations give the children something to socially interact around. The child feels competent about his passion and it gives him a topic to talk about. Also the interest to “find out more” drives information seeking (asking questions). They are eager to share and learn with others. Finally, it is important for parents and teachers to understand how valuable fixations are for the children. Use these fixations to engage the child, and help them expand these fixations into greater strengths. Use the fixated interests to motivate greater learning. Expand on these interests to teach social skills, coping skills for stress and anxiety, develop academic skills, further leisure interests, and future vocational goals. Become part of these fixations, enjoy them, and develop them!