09/23/2013 04:43 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Worried About Special Interests of Autism and Your Child?

All autistic individuals have interests, which they focus on with great depth and emotions. When we parents see our children developing their interests, we often get worried. It's the intensity. We are told that autistic children get "locked" in their own world. The very metaphor trips us up. It leads us to think that our children are suffering and need us to pull them out of their world. This belief needs to change. They aren't suffering, even if they express negative emotions, and our job is not to pull them out.

Interests are passions -- and passions are the fuel of learning, imagination, connection, and lifelong joy. It is a wonderful thing to know what fires you up and to follow those passions. So we are the ones who have to change our perspective on our child's passions.

When you find your child's passion, celebrate it! You have found the path, one of many paths, to having fun, learning, exploring, and growing with your child! Now's your chance to jump in and explore them with him.

One of my child's first passions was doors. We went to people's houses, office buildings, supermarkets, and stores to find all the doors and how they worked. We drew a book of doors. We built doors out of cardboard. We played games with doors. We developed an intense and exciting connection around doors.

My child's second interest was garage doors. We did the same thing with garage doors. Then we went to a garage door factory -- several times. I took brownies (because brownies always smooth the way) for the employees and they showered us with extra garage door remotes and parts. My son met the employees, talked with them, and learned all about garage doors. It was fantastic.

Before I did this, I felt the same worry that all parents do -- he will get lost in garage doors and be unavailable to people. I was so worried about letting him watch garage door videos on YouTube, that I held off for a long time. But that was my worry. Once I let go of it, we watched together. He found favorites. He watched them over and over. And he was not "lost." He needed to watch them repeatedly to absorb all the different sensory inputs. Plus it was just fun.

We think we should put limits on the interests and the time spent with them. But the more we resist and put restrictions on them, the more our relationship gets worn, not the interest in their passions. We can make deep connections over their interests. They will feel trusted and supported. They will feel that we value them, not just their interests.

Embrace the passion. It is a truly wonderful thing to know, with force and with conviction, those things that make you happy. And our kids come by it naturally.