Characterization of Special Interests in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Brief Review and Pilot Study Using the Special Interests Survey

J Autism Dev Disord. 2021 Aug;51(8):2711-2724. doi: 10.1007/s10803-020-04743-6. Epub 2020 Oct 9.


Special interests (SIs) are part of the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Though they can have both positive and negative effects on functioning and long-term outcomes, research on SIs is limited. This pilot study used a newly developed parent-report measure, the Special Interest Survey, to characterize SIs in 1992 children with ASD. The mean number of current special interests reported was 9, with television, objects, and music being most commonly endorsed interests. The mean age of onset reported across all categories was 5.24 years, with duration of past interests most often exceeding 2 years. Age of onset, interference, and relative unusualness of the SI was varied across categories. Interference was significantly correlated with the unusualness of the SIs.

Keywords: Autism; Circumscribed interests; Special interests.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires