Floating Focus - Ellie's Experience
Many autistic people may have highly focused interests in particular areas, from TV shows to animals and music. They can quickly become engrossed in the topic, dedicating masses of time and energy into research and learning.
Although the interests can be all-consuming, they also bring great deal of comfort and joy to the individual.
Ellie said: “If you ask me to talk about a subject that I’m absolutely fixated on, I will talk to you about that subject until the whole room is bored.”
She can talk about the topic for hours and hours. When someone is so passionate about an interest, they want to share that knowledge and enthusiasm with those around them.
She continued: “But if I am in a conversation with someone else and they’re talking about a different subject, and something else comes in my head, I need to talk about that subject.”
When another topic enters her mind, it completely takes over and she feels an irresistible urge to talk about it.
“I think to some people, that seems like we’re not listening…But it’s actually because we are listening, but we have so much else going in our heads that we’re not just a hundred percent focused on what they’re saying.”
It can be challenging to restrict your focus to one topic when your mind is constantly whirring with so many other thoughts. The struggle only increases during periods of heightened stress and anxiety where it can take one small thing to divert your focus entirely.
For Ellie, it takes a huge amount of work to stay attentive. Fortunately, the people in her life are aware of her needs and they are patient and supportive so she is able to collect her thoughts.
She has spent the past couple of years advocating for herself, telling others when she needs to step out, if it’s too noisy, overstimulating, or if she just needs a minute. By making her needs known, people gain a greater understanding and respond more positively.
She added: “I think what some people forget is that not everyone can read your mind. They can’t understand what’s going on and they will just jump to a conclusion of thinking you’re just being rude and ignoring them when that’s not the case.”
“We’re not trying to be rude or invasive or just being unsociable. We just have something we need to talk about.”