Most people can readily identify a “perseveration” in the life of someone they know with autism. We point to autism as the cause of this person’s inability or lack of desire to focus on anything other than Pokemon, dinosaurs, outer space, Minecraft, John Deere tractors, chickens, particular plastic containers, etc. And frequently, we look for ways to lessen the attraction or limit access to it. Other times we use it as a motivator or reward.
There are valid reasons for identifying a perseveration and finding ways to use it to everyone’s advantage, or to work around it or lessen the effect of it.
But what about the rest of us? Are people with autism the only ones who have perseverations? A peek into anyone’s social media account will readily identify those people, objects, activities, or topics that consume a person’s passions, time, energy, and finances. Sports and entertainment, shopping, traveling, collecting things, pets, children and grandchildren, vehicles, food, restaurants, beverages, fashion, movies, video games, books, Harry Potter, etc. are the things the rest of us tend to list as “likes,” “hobbies,” or “special interests.” Or maybe we haven’t even identified them as such, but our postings and conversations reveal the truth; that even we can be somewhat “obsessed” with some things to the point of ignoring other people, overspending, wasting time, and being annoyed when we have to focus on other responsibilities.
For all of us, it is wise to pursue balance between work and play, comfortable pursuits and novel experiences, familiar friends and new people…Finding ways to balance our current status with opportunities for growth, adventure, additional skills, and new connections with others is a way to avoid perseverations that might otherwise get us “stuck,” stunting our growth or limiting our access to a greater level of success.
As we commemorate Autism Awareness Month, let’s continue to be aware of our own strengths and challenges, too, always inciting one another toward personal and interpersonal growth!