Autism and Asperger Articles, Bill Stillman, Award-Winning Author

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Demystifying Autism From The Inside Out

The Importance of Having Passions

By William Stillman

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Do you like to read books in a certain genre or by a particular author? Do you like to garden, or play a sport outdoors? Perhaps you collect something? Or do you paint, play a musical instrument, or create something using your natural gifts and talents? You likely engage in such activity because it pleases you, gives you a focal point in which to become absorbed, and you achieve satisfaction or pride in it. Many of us are already aware of our gifts and talents because they define what we do for fun, with whom we spend time, or how we make a living. We may call these pleasurable opportunities passions, areas of special interest, or hobbies.

But wait! How come you can have a hobby, but I have to have an obsession? Personally speaking, I know all too well of the stigma associated with having a so-called “obsession,” and I’ve lectured and written about it in many forums. We are all more alike than different—so what’s the difference? The difference is the label that creates an “us and them” paradigm. If you spend time watching NASCAR races and collecting memorabilia associated with your favorite driver, you’re a collector and enthusiast; if someone with a different way of being does the same thing, it’s a maladaptive behavior and an abnormal fixation that needs to be extinguished.

What if we looked beyond labels in favor of recognizing our mutual similarities as simply passionate people? Then the difference makes no difference! Each person loves and enjoys NASCAR regardless of their way of being, period. Not only that, how does being involved in your most passionate of interests make you feel? Probably really great (otherwise it wouldn’t be your passion!). You may even associate specific memories of happy events connected to your passion—if so, you have a history to draw from and stories to tell! Your passion can be an entrée into social dialogue with others (it’s called breaking the ice). It may also aid you in learning something new by branching out from your passion into a related but unknown area or topic. More so, shared interests can lead to friendships, or even romantic relationships! When we toss out antiquated and clinical stereotypes, and begin valuing people’s passions, unlimited possibilities await us.

©2007, William Stillman (

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