Author: Boucher, Troy
Restricted Interests (RIs), characterized by their intense focus in a restricted range of topics that interfere with other activities, are an under-researched aspect of autism. Using interpretive phenomenological analysis, the characteristics and motivations for RIs were explored through interviews with thirty autistic and twenty-two non-autistic children. Both autistic and non-autistic participants' interests could be socially motivated, although some autistic participants demonstrated an absence of social motivation. Desire to overcome challenges and improve skills motivated interests in both groups. Many autistic participants, and a few non-autistic participants, indicated an obsessive engagement in their interests which highly interfered with their daily activities. Other autistic and non-autistic participants demonstrated an intense engagement in their interests, but these did not interfere with other activities and were harmoniously integrated into their identity. A thorough understanding of the motivation for RIs may help to facilitate peer interactions, social development, and identify sources of poor socioemotional functioning in autistic children.
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Thesis advisor: Iarocci, Grace
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