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Dinosaurs 24/7: Understanding the Special Interests of Children with Asperger's

Mary Ann Winter-Messiers, Maitrise (Universite de Paris-IV, La Sorbonne)
Research Assistant, Department of Special Education
Cynthia M. Herr, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education
University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon, USA
Date Last Revised: 
May 24, 2013
Date Published: 
April 2, 2007

An illustration of a dinosaur Copyright Smithsonian Institution

What do a quirky lawyer, a child lost during a museum field trip, a family who needs a new home, a boy who witnessed the murder of his parents, a doctor who bonds with a mysterious young patient, an 18 year old woman dealing with the sensory chaos of New York City, and an out-of-control toddler have in common? All were featured in prime time television programs in 2006, fictional or reality-based, which centered on a character with Asperger's Syndrome. Boston Legal, Without a Trace, Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Cold Case, House, All My Children, and Supernanny each ran episodes in 2006 focusing on Asperger's Syndrome. The Apprentice, Numb3rs, the Discovery Channel, the Jane Pauley Show, ER, and The Closer also featured programs on this syndrome. Christian Clemenson, the actor who plays a gifted lawyer with Asperger's Syndrome on Boston Legal, won an Emmy for Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series this year. In October, comedian Jon Stewart hosted a Comedy Central Benefit for Autism Education at New York's Beacon Theatre.

Clearly, the media and the prime time public are spellbound by Asperger's Syndrome. Some programs presented factual representations, others wildly fictional, but the theme draws viewers, especially when the story line includes the unusual special interest of the central character. While television producers benefit from this attractive topic, however, thousands of real families live every minute of their lives caring for their children with Asperger's Syndrome. One of the most fascinating aspects of Asperger's Syndrome is the special interest areas in which over 90% of individuals with Asperger's Syndrome engage. 1

Little research has been conducted into the special interests of children and youth with Asperger's Syndrome. Although parents, educators, and experts in the field of Asperger's seem well aware of the existence of these special interests, our review of the literature indicates that no one has researched the origin and development of such interests in children and youth with the Syndrome.2,3,4,5,6,7 Nor has anyone explored the effect of special interests on the social, communication, and emotional skills and deficits of children and youth with Asperger's, or how special interests might be integrated most effectively into school, home, and community.

The purpose of our exploratory study was to evaluate the impact of special interest areas (SIAs) on children and youth with Asperger's, as well as on their families. 8 The lead author and her graduate students began this study in January, 2005 with a methodical search of the existing literature on the special interests individuals with Asperger's. The research team then identified a research question, designed an appropriate study, and obtained university and school district approval to conduct the study. We defined SIAs as those passions that capture the mind, heart, time, and attention of individuals with Asperger's, providing the lens through which they view the world. 9

During the summer of 2005, the research team conducted the study and gathered both qualitative and quantitative data from the study participants and their parents/guardians. The research team then spent the fall and winter of 2005 analyzing the data they had obtained. Various members of the research team presented the results of the study at two national conferences: the National Council for Exceptional Children conference in Salt Lake City, Utah in April, 2006 and the National Autism Society of America conference in Providence, Rhode Island in July, 2006.

How Did We Conduct This Study?

This section summarizes the methods used to conduct the study including how participants were selected, demographic information about the participants and their parents/guardians, the development of the interview instruments, and the conduct of the interviews. 10,11

With school districts' permission, we contacted the parents/guardians of children and youth who were scheduled to participate in one of two summer extended school year (ESY) programs for students with Asperger's Syndrome. All of the children and youth had a diagnosis of Asperger's and were on individualized education programs (IEPs) which included ESY participation. Five districts in the Pacific Northwest gave us permission to contact the parents or guardians of their 30 ESY students. We sent letters to all 30 parents/guardians inviting them and their children and youth to participate in our study. Twenty-six of the 30 parents/guardians agreed to allow their children to participate, a response rate of 87%. Of those 26 children and youth who received permission to participate, 24 agreed to be interviewed for a response rate of 92%. Twenty-one participants were male and three were female, and they ranged in age from 7 to 21 years. Twenty-two children and youth were Non-Hispanic White and two were Native American/Alaskan. After completing the interviews, we determined that one of the 24 participants did not have a diagnosis of Asperger's, and her data was excluded.

We also invited the participants' parent or guardians to respond to a written survey whether or not they gave permission for their children and youth to participate in the study. Eighteen parents returned their surveys, a response rate of 63%. Fifteen of the 18 parents had some college education or held college degrees. Ten of the 18 parents earned an annual salary of $40,000 or more. Sixteen parents identified as Non-Hispanic White, two identified as Native American/Alaskan, and one declined to disclose his/her ethnicity. Parents reported spending between $100 and $5,000 annually on their child's special interest, including expenses such as related clothing, personal items, toys or objects, books, software, supplies, classes, outings, and overnight trips.

The research team designed two sets of questions to be used to collect data. The questionnaire used for the interviews with participants consisted of a set of 14 items with clarifying questions to be used as needed. The items were designed to gather information about the participants' special interest areas (SIAs), the length of time participants had engaged in their SIAs, participants' chosen method of learning about their SIAs, and how much time participants' spent on their SIAs.

The second questionnaire was a 40-item survey for parents or guardians who had the option of requesting an anonymous telephone interview instead of completing the written survey. Personnel from the participating districts mailed the surveys to the participants' homes, and parents or guardians returned them in envelopes with no identifying marks so that they were anonymous. Survey themes reflected in the questions included (a) the developmental history of the participant's SIA, (b) family history of similar interests, (c) the amount of time that the student spent daily and weekly in pursuing the interest, (d) the impact of the interest on siblings and family life, (e) ways in which parents supported their children and youth's SIAs, and (f) parents' attitudes and beliefs about their child's or youth's SIAs.

The graduate students on the research team conducted all of the interviews under the supervision of the authors. The interviewers worked in teams with one interviewer responsible for conducting an interview with a participant while the second interviewer was responsible for monitoring time limits, preparing forms, running the tape recorders, and taking field notes. The members of an interview team traded roles after each interview. Interviews lasted for 20-25 minutes. After all of the interviews were concluded, the research team provided an ice cream party for the participants and for the ESY program staff.

Analyzing the Children's Interviews

Working in teams, we transcribed all of the interviews and then coded the transcripts for themes. We identified 75 sub-themes such as specific types of strategies participants used to learn about their SIAs, including reading about their SIAs, researching online or at a library, talking to experts or exchanging email with professionals in their SIAs, watching videos, or taking classes relevant to their SIAs. We organized these 75 themes into related groups, and in teams of two, the researchers wrote memos, or series of paragraphs, that paraphrased the essential ideas from each grouped theme. Concurrent with this activity, interview field notes and parent surveys were also transcribed. The research team discussed this data and how it impacted, supported, or contradicted the content of the interviews.

Throughout each step of the research process, team members exchanged their work to critique the accuracy, quality, integrity, reliability, and validity of each person's work. No evidence-based conclusions were decided upon until team members agreed that the conclusions accurately represented the data to the best of our ability.

What Did We Learn?

We organized our findings into the following areas: (a) categories of SIAs, (b) the fusion of SIAs and identity, (c) gender differences in SIAs, (d) parents' knowledge about and feelings towards SIAs, (e) peers' perceptions of SIAs and how those perceptions negatively affect children and youth with Asperger's, and (f) the impact of SIAs on classic Asperger's deficits.

Categories of SIAs

In the limited research concerning the special interests of individuals with Asperger's, Attwood, 12  Gillberg, 13 and Myles and Adreon 14  all noted that special interests vary widely. We found this in our research also. We identified 22 SIAs which we categorized into eight interest themes. These included classic SIAs as well as unusual ones. The eight themes were transportation, music, animals, sports, video games, motion pictures, woodworking, and art. Table 1 lists the SIAs of all participants.

Table 1. Participants' Primary Special Interest Areas
General Theme
Interest Area
Transportation Airplanes
  Cars
  Trains
  Trucks
Music Composing
  Drumming
  Rap Music
  Saxophone
Animals Frogs
  Goats
  Horses
Sports Swimming
Video Games Role Playing Games (RPGs)
Motion Pictures Disney
  Star Wars
  Vampires
Woodworking  
Art Anime
  Cartooning
  Manga
  Sculpting

Note: Although N=23 in our study, the interests do not total 23 because two participants shared the same special interest.

Although 7 of the boys in our study identified video games as their SIA, further analysis of the interviews revealed that often the boys hid their true SIAs in order to gain social acceptance from their peers. Participants often used video games or other popular interests as a social bridge, even if these interests were not their true SIAs. We labeled this practice the masking of special interests because we found that participants used this technique to hide perceived socially unacceptable SIAs from their peers while still interacting with them. For example, Tom said that video games were his SIA, but later revealed his passion for woodworking. 15 Peter revealed his masking process when he told us, "Uh, I'm a gamer, uh, but my favorite video game, the only one I am actually good at, would be First Person Shooters...But the truth is, I like frogs...frogsfrogsfrogsfrogs! I have, like, so many frogs at both my mom and dad's houses and I'm not going to ever sell them or give them away or stuff like that. If I was going to sell them, which I'm not, I'd be rich! Really, really, RICH!" 16

The Fusion of SIAs and Identity

It was clear from our data that participants' positive self-images were inextricably woven into their SIAs. The participants strongly identified with their SIAs and saw themselves defined by their SIAs. SIAs are critically important to children and youth with Asperger's. Though participants' self-images apart from their SIAs were strongly negative, we found that when they were involved in activities related to their SIAs, they felt more positive about themselves. They demonstrated expertise in their SIAs, control over their knowledge and involvement in their SIAs, and increased self-confidence. One participant, Ryan, confided, "I think I've got a lot more understanding on how things work than most people. I've got a corner in the back of my brain that allows me to perfectly simulate almost anything." 17 Steve told us, "I'm the main customer at a place called Hollywood Video. I am a movie whiz!" 18

Gender Differences in SIAs

Our female participants validated the research of Cohen 19   on the interests of girls with Asperger's in which she found that the most popular interests among her participants were art, primarily drawing and cartooning, and animals. The interests of the two girls in our study were manga and horses. Sarah, one of the two girls in our study, firmly stated "I'm an animal person. [People] can sense that I am an animal person." 20

Parents' Knowledge of and Feelings Toward SIAs

Most parents who completed a survey were very aware of their children's SIAs, and were able to correctly identify them. Parents saw the purpose of SIAs as having fun, relaxing, avoiding doing another task, avoiding thinking about something else, calming down, and reducing stress or anxiety. Parents acknowledged their children's expertise in their SIAs. Nearly all the parents surveyed correctly identified their children's SIAs. Most children and youth participants reported that their interactions with their parents concerning their SIAs were positive.

Parents' primary concerns regarding their children's SIAs were that they were socially unacceptable, not age-appropriate, and would not lead to college or careers. A grandmother lamented "once he is 'IN' a game -- there is no further participation with life in general...he rambles on and on about what he cares about, or things [about] himself.... No interest shown in others." 21   One parent shared, "[His SIA] keeps him from learning new possibilities." 22  One boy's mother also expressed her concern for his future. "Can he really do this as a career?" 23 Sixteen of the 18 parent respondents said that they regularly interpreted their children's SIAs for family, friends, and teachers, explaining why their children were so involved in their SIAs. Fourteen parents stated that their children's SIAs had a positive impact on their families.

Parents expressed a wide range of emotions concerning their children's SIAs. These included the five most common positive feelings in our survey data: pride, humor, fascination, pleasure, and enthusiasm. For example, Brock's mother stated, "My son inspires my respect and admiration for all he knows and his amazing brain." 24 Marcus's mother affirmed, "It's part of what makes him special!"  25 Justin's grandmother wrote, "I'm glad to see if Justin has an interest he can go far with. If he chooses a scientific study he could be a genius." 26

Parents also experienced negative emotions about their children's SIAs. The three most common were boredom, frustration, and embarrassment. Justin's grandmother expressed her weariness with Justin's SIA when she wrote simply, "This world is all about Justin." 27   One parent expressed her frustration, writing "It's tiring for others to listen to [him talk about his SIA] after awhile; it's limiting for him, too." 28   Another parent agreed. "It's obsessive and gets old," she wrote. 29

Some children and youth expressed frustration with their parents, too. Peter confided, "My Dad...did not really accept that I am, um, a gamer." When asked what he thought his parents thought his SIA was, he replied, "I don't think they've really got a clue. They'd probably think the video games 'cause they're always tellin' me to get off my butt and go do somethin'." 30

Peers' Perceptions of SIAs

Participants expressed reluctance to tell others about their SIAs due to rejection from their peers. Participants also noted that they were frustrated at being misunderstood by others. Their SIAs were often seen as socially unacceptable, and their peers lacked understanding and interest in the participants' SIAs. Charlie wanted to clarify, "I also make dragons, not just dinosaurs, everyone needs to know what they are....dragons, Dragons, DRAGONS!" 31   Brock admitted, "I just wish they'd think planes were cool." 32

Brock also revealed his feeling of peer rejection, as well as his desire to be the expert, when he told one interviewer, "I wish [kids at school] would accept planes and, uh, not always pretend to throw up about it...I just wish they knew as much about it as I do, maybe even ... no, maybe not even more." 33

Participants clearly wanted to be recognized as experts, and accepted by their peers. "Well I first like tell 'em I'm talented, but then I like wanna prove, I mean PROVE, that I can do it." 34   Another participant stated, "Yeah...wulll...apparently, like, when I make something very good, then they'll be impressed." 35

Many participants, such as Brock, revealed social awareness in their cautious dealings with peers, testing the waters before revealing their SIAs. "First, I usually don't talk about it... and if I have a really good friend... they might come over to my house and then they'll see all these planes around and they'll tell me that planes are a really cool thing... and then I'll know." 36 Justin told us, "Video games used to be at the top of my list. Now I always put girls at the top of my list. If it's a girl, I'll hang back, observe, see what kinda things she likes and I'll move in slow and steady. One could say that I like to buy lunch for pretty girls." 37

Owen was willing to be flexible in talking with peers, saying "If they don't look interested I change the subject. I say, 'Hey, I can change my voice.'" 38   Steve, however, had learned self-preservation by backing off when teased by peers. "I don't really wish other people would know about it." 39   Charlie confided, "They wouldn't, like, care anyway." 40

The Impact of SIAs on Classic Asperger's Deficits

We discovered that SIAs had some very positive effects on some of the classic deficits of children and youth with Asperger's. Traditionally, children and youth with Asperger's exhibit deficits in the areas of language, social communication, emotions, and problems with sensory stimuli and fine motor activities. However, we found that these deficits were diminished when participants were engaged in their SIAs. 41

As we interviewed participants and later listened to the taped interviews, we noticed distinct changes in the participants' speech whenever they talked about their SIAs. Some participants began to show significantly more enthusiasm and emotion when asked about their SIAs. In some participants, we noted that their speech was much clearer and they used more advanced vocabulary when talking about their SIAs. For example, when responding to general questions, Charlie repeatedly gave answers such as "Uh, I don't think so, I just, whatever," consisting of simple one or two syllable words with no clear content. When asked about his favorite thing to play with, however, his speech pattern changed instantly as he confidently replied, "My favorite is a Yu-Gi-Oh™ card that combines with three Blue-Eyed White Dragons, and due to polymerization it forms those three into a three-headed dragon." 42

Our team also observed improvement in body language, particularly an increase in eye contact and expressive gestures that accompanied speech. Further, we noticed a remarkable decrease in self-stimulation, distraction, and body movement in and around the tables and the participants' chairs.

All of our participants enthusiastically talked at length about their SIAs. The participants noted that they saw nothing unusual or extraordinary about their SIAs. Participants shared that they felt positive emotions when actively engaged in their SIAs, including enthusiasm, pride, and happiness. Danny could barely contain his joy in repeatedly telling the interviewers, "I was born to like...Walt Disney. Walt Disney is my life. Disney has been my most happiest hope in my whole life." 43   Nate, whose SIA was musical composition, proudly told the interviewers, "My parents think I'm an unbelievable, amazing drummer." 44   Convinced of his successful future in composing music scores for film, Nate confidently declared, "The reason I wanna move back there [to Hollywood] is, I wanna be a composer and, and just take over John William's job, get into that job, and compose Harry Potter, The Terminal...just, before I do that, I have to learn the notes". Nate described how the music made him feel. "I like composing music for movies so that I have a good feeling...I like feeling sad, happy, scared, sneaky." 45

Individuals with Asperger's often find intense smells, loud sounds, or personal touch highly unpleasant. 46   Rising to these sensory challenges, our participants persevered for hours at a time when involved in their SIAs in spite of intense stimulation from model airplane glue, modeling clay, horse manure, goat odors, sawdust, sweat, sticky or dirty hands, and the bright lights, rapid movements, and loud, startling sounds of video games.

Though children and youth with Asperger's typically have acknowledged difficulties in tying shoelaces, fastening buttons, and handwriting, 47,48  our participants spoke not only of their advanced fine motor skills, but of extreme perseverance and patience in the fine motor skills that their SIAs required such as drawing, building, sculpting, creating models, playing keyboards, using video controllers, and playing musical instruments.

SIAs clearly serve a very positive purpose for children and youth with Asperger's. SIAs are vital to their well being; they are viewed by children and youth not as a hobby or leisure activity or interest, but as an integral part of who they are. In their special interest, these children and youth acquire clear focus, a way to organize the world, a social approach, and a way to interpret life. SIAs are not taken lightly by children and youth with Asperger's, and neither should they be taken lightly by parents and teachers.

How Can Parents and Teachers Get the Most Out of Children's SIAs?

SIAs can be powerful motivators for children and youth with Asperger's. Parents can take advantage of the strong connection their children have with their SIAs by using them to motivate or to reinforce children for completing or trying less desirable activities such as chores or to entice children to engage in social activities with the family. For example, a child with an SIA in horses might earn a horseback riding lesson for keeping her room clean for a week, or a student with an SIA in aviation might earn a trip to the local airport after helping his parents wash the family car.

SIAs provide children with Asperger's with a way to relax, de-stress, and cope with the world. Children and youth with Asperger's often arrive home after school tired and stressed after a day of working hard to stay calm and focused at school. Allowing a child to spend some time engaging in her SIA after school can help reduce her stress level so that the child can then participate more willingly in the family's evening activities.

In order to facilitate communication and encourage interaction between the child with Asperger's and his family, parents could arrange outings focused on the child's SIA or arrange for friends who share an interest in the child's SIA to participate with the family in an activity focused on the child's SIA. Parents could encourage a child to participate in a community organization that is related to his/her SIA as a way of increasing the child's socialization skills. For example, a youth who is interested in farm animals might join a local 4-H group and learn how to raise and care for a lamb, cow, or pig. A child with an SIA in trains could join a local model railroad group and learn about and share his/her own expertise about trains.

In the Asperger's community, many adults have developed careers based on their personal SIAs. These individuals can be a source of encouragement for parents, children with Asperger's Syndrome, and educators alike. For example, Dr. Temple Grandin is an associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Her passion for cattle has prepared the way for her career as an expert designer and consultant in humane cattle management and slaughter techniques. 49   Gilles Trehin, a young French man who created the fictitious city of Urville, has published a complete book of intricate drawings of Urville as he has imagined it since the age of 12. 50   Dr. Dawn Prince-Hughes, adjunct professor of anthropology at Western Washington University, has turned her identification with and passion for gorillas into a profession as a consultant and educator about their history, culture, and needs. 51

Parents could use a child's SIA to motivate the child to cooperate with necessary daily living activities such as going to the dentist, shopping for groceries, or getting a haircut. Following such stressful events with free time to engage in the child's SIA may encourage the child to behave appropriately in order to hasten access to the SIA.

Because SIAs are such a vital element in the self-image and motivation of children and youth with Asperger's, it is imperative that they be welcomed and encouraged at school. From our data we learned how deeply participants and parents feel about educators respecting their insights concerning making room for SIAs at school. We also learned how strongly the participants wanted teachers to incorporate their preferred methods of gathering information, particularly reading, into the curricula. We cannot afford to ignore students' SIAs, or withhold engagement with them as punishment for misbehavior. With little additional effort, teachers can integrate SIAs into all core academic areas, including English, reading, writing, spelling, math, science, speech, and history. Students with Asperger's are much more likely to demonstrate their true levels of ability in academic assignments when SIAs can be included in the assignments. For example, students can be encouraged to practice reading skills by reading books about their SIAs. Teachers, with parents' help, can embed areas of special interests into assignments such as math problems that use examples from a child's SIA in order to motivate the child to practice solving math story problems.

For a middle school or high school student with Asperger's, an opportunity to shadow a professional in a field related to the student's SIA could promote a career interest for the student. For example, the student who is an expert on Disney films might shadow or interview a character animator to learn how animated movies are created and what kind of training is required for a career in film-making.

Students can also benefit from simplified versions of their SIAs to deal with negative emotions, reduce anxiety, and calm themselves in stressful situations. Students identify with their SIAs; therefore, a favorite small airplane, stuffed frog, photograph of a prized goat, sheet music of a revered composer, cover from a preferred DVD or video, or recent anime drawing may help the child in calming himself and reducing disruptive anxiety-driven self-stimulation or other behaviors. We must see SIAs for the gold mine they are in helping our students progress toward their academic, social, emotional, communication, and behavioral goals.

Unquestionably, making the shift to inviting SIAs into the academic arena requires effort on the part of parents and teachers. They must each be willing to think creatively to find ways in which to insert the SIA effectively and appropriately into the curriculum. Parents and teachers must be flexible, looking beyond the strict limits of the lesson plans and assignments to ask, "Is it our goal that Samantha write about summer vacation, or is it that she learn to write, even if she chooses to write about carnivorous plants?" Teachers must partner with parents, seeking their input on their children's SIAs, their ideas for how to integrate the SIAs into the curricula, and even their practical help in modifying assignments to incorporate the SIAs. Parents can integrate SIAs into countless areas of their children's home and community lives, increasing children's motivation, interest, and cooperation. (See Table 2, below.)

 

Table 2. Examples of the Integration of the Solar System as SIA into Core Upper Elementary School Curriculum
Academic Areas
Solar System-Integrated Assignments
Reading Read three chapters that interest you in Astronomy: The Solar System and Beyond by Michael A. Seeds. 52
Writing Have you ever dreamed of discovering a planet or a galaxy? Imagine you found one. Name it after yourself and write a newspaper article announcing your discovery to the world! Where did you find it? How did you discover it? How will your discovery change astronomy?
Spelling Read Chapter 3, Astronomical Tools, in Astronomy: The Solar System and Beyond, above. List your favorite tools, such as "optical telescope," and learn to spell them. You might want to draw pictures of them, too.
History Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish astronomer, lived in 1473 - 1543. He was a brilliant scientist, but he paid a high price for his belief that the earth rotated around the sun. Read Copernicus: Founder of Modern Astronomy (Great Minds of Science) 53  by Catherine M. Andronik to find out what so enraged his critics. Think about this: if you had been Copernicus, do you think you would have changed your theory?
Speech Dress as and present the passion and work of Charles Messier, French astronomer born in 1730. Explain to your audience what is meant by the "Messier Number."
Math Find out how far each of the eight planets in our solar system are from earth. Now calculate how far they are from each other. Which one is furthest from any other planet? Which two are closest together? What is the average distance of all the planets from the earth?
Science Just what is Halley's Comet, and who was Halley? Go to the library to find out exactly what a comet is and why Halley's Comet is so important. How do comets differ from stars? Will Halley's Comet come through again in your lifetime?
Art Choose your favorite Messier Deep Space Object and make it come alive with paint, clay, fabric, recycled objects, or another medium that you choose.
Internet Skills
  • Where in the world is the Kuiper Belt? When does NASA plan to go there? What do the Oort Cloud and some really cold bodies have in common? To find out, research NASA's amazing website at solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/index.cfm.
  • Surfing NASA's site or other federal or university websites, find an astronomer and write him or her with your most burning questions about the stars!

Children with Asperger's Syndrome can achieve far beyond expectations when they are allowed to be involved in their SIAs. Educators and parents must embrace SIAs as a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Over fifty years ago, Hans Asperger (1991/1944) already knew what we are just coming to see: special interests are the key to fulfillment and maximized potential in children and youth with Asperger's Syndrome. We can find reason to hope for significant and meaningful futures for children with Asperger's in his stirring words that call so clearly to us today:

"Able autistic individuals can rise to eminent positions and perform with such outstanding success that one may even conclude that only such people are capable of certain achievements. It is as if they had compensatory ability to counter-balance their deficiencies. Their unswerving determination and penetrating intellectual powers, part of their spontaneous and original mental activity, their narrowness and single-mindedness, as manifested in their special interests, can be immensely valuable and can lead to outstanding achievements in their chosen areas."  54

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Date Last Updated: August 3, 2010

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  15. "Tom" - personal communication, July 19, 2005.
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  17. "Ryan" - personal communication, July 26, 2005.
  18. "Steve" - personal communication, July 20, 2005.
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  21. "Grandmother of a child with Asperger's" - personal communication, July 28, 2005.
  22. "Parent of a child with Asperger's" - personal communication, July 23, 2005.
  23. "Mother of a child with Asperger's" - personal communication, July 14, 2005.
  24. "Brock's mother" - personal communication, July 25, 2005.
  25. "Marcus' mother" - personal communication, July 24, 2005
  26. "Justin's Grandmother" - personal communication, July 28, 2005.
  27. "Justin's Grandmother" - personal communication, July 28, 2005.
  28. "Parent of a child with Asperger's" - personal communication, July 27, 2005.
  29. "Parent of a child with Asperger's" - personal communication, July 26, 2005.
  30. "Peter" - personal communication, July 26, 2005.
  31. "Charlie" - personal communication, July 20, 2005.
  32. "Brock" - personal communication, August 5, 2005.
  33. "Brock" - personal communication, August 5, 2005.
  34. "Charlie" - personal communication, July 20, 2005.
  35. "Child with Asperger's" - personal communication, July 20, 2005.
  36. "Brock" - personal communication, August 5, 2005.
  37. "Justin" - personal communication, July 26, 2005.
  38. "Owen" - personal communication, July 26, 2005.
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