ASD Special Interests and Learning

Font Size

“Spiderman is my favorite superhero, although Doc Ock is not my favorite bad guy.”

I turned to look at Declan, sitting on the top of the bleachers with his kindle.  I put my hand over my eyes to filter the bright gym lights to see him dressed as Spiderman, playing his favorite Spiderman game.  Beside him was another boy of the same age, watching Declan play.

The kindle is always a magnetic device to draw other children closer.  And it is a wonderful resource for me when I am trying to watch my other son’s basketball game.

I marveled at Declan’s speech.  He started a conversation with another child.  He told him something about himself.  And I, who never even thought to ask who is favorite bad guy was, just learned it wasn’t Doc Ock.

But of course, I knew his favorite superhero was Spiderman.

Spiderman: The superhero who Declan has dressed as for Halloween for the past three years.  His shoes have all been a version of Spiderman for the past three years.  His winter coat, pajama’s, socks, favorite stuffed hero, swim floatie, toothbrush – yes, all Spiderman.

And now, his underwear is adorned with Spiderman, too.

Special Interests and Learning

A few years ago, a couple of friends were trying to give my husband directions to an office.  The first person tried, and named every building that surrounded the office in question, without luck.  The second friend tried, knowing my husband played softball, naming the baseball fields that were around the office.  When my husband acknowledged, he knew where the office was now, friend two said one simple statement to friend one, with a wink:

“Know your audience.”

When it comes to connecting and learning, the same rules could be applied to the person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Caregivers and teachers have found it easier to connect with a person with ASD by focusing on their special interest.

It is thought that 90% of people with Asperger’s have a deep fascination or special interest (deEntremont, 2016).

The special interest not only helps to broaden your communication with your child, but can be a tremendous aid for learning.

Spiderman WEBS!

In our house, Declan has battled the potty for 2 ½ years now.  He will be 6 years old in just a few months and there is a chance he will still be in a diaper.


One year ago, I bought the coolest item in the world to Declan.  Spiderman webs.  Spiderman webs are just silly string with the Spiderman logo on the container, but to Declan, they are webs.  And they are the coolest thing ever.  He had a blast firing the webs wearing all his Spiderman gear.


So, we went to the store and bought another two containers.  And put them in the closet.  I told Declan he could shoot the webs when he used the potty for 5 days.

Declan wears his Spiderman gear often.  He plays Spiderman games.  He wears his Spiderman shoes.

And he talked about those webs frequently.

This past weekend, he put underwear on.  And for a few hours every day, he has worn underwear.  He has had more successful trips to the potty than accidents.

So we celebrated.  And brought out the webs.



We will continue to play on Declan’s special interest to help him with learning, as we continue on our potty training and when he starts school.  We will count Spiderman’s bad guys, and we will read Spiderman books – those are the things Declan is interested in and those are the things that will help him learn.  So let’s use his very special resource as an aid to support learning.

All kinds of learning!

deEntremont, Lorna, “Students with Autism: Take Advantage of Special Interests and Strengths”Kid Companions, Sentiolife Solutions, 2016, 27 January 2017


7 thoughts on “ASD Special Interests and Learning

  1. Another great piece! It still surprises (and saddens) me that the message to engage our children based on their interests is not getting through to so many people who could make a difference every day.

    1. Thank you! I agree – so much of the information I read was to try and encourage those working with kids on the spectrum to focus on their special interests, instead of trying to get the person away from them. To use the special interest as a resource instead of seeing it as a hinderance. I guess, on a personal level, I will be sure to let Declan’s teachers know the best way to connect with him on subjects to try and help learning.

Leave a Reply