Autistic (in bolt teal block text) on top of a white brain outline over a purple teal and blue paint splatter with the title and subtitle in white text that reads: Monotropism and Autism: What IS Monotropism and how does it apply to Autistic People? Monotropism (a key feature of Autism) is a person's tendency to focus their attention on a small number of interests at any time, tending to miss things outside of this attention tunnel.

Monotropism and Autism: What IS Monotropism and how does it apply to Autistic People?

Developed by Dinah Murray, Wenn Lawson, and Mike Lesser in the 1990s… According to Wikipedia:

Monotropism is a person’s tendency to focus their attention on a small number of interests at any time, tending to miss things outside of this attention tunnel. This cognitive strategy is posited to be the central underlying feature of autism.

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Welcome to my world. If you understand Monotropism, you will be much closer to understanding me (and almost everything I do) in my life as an Autistic Person who lives in a near-constant state of Monotropic tunnel vision.

So WHAT does Monotropism look like within the Autistic mind?

As an Autistic Person, Monotropism is a central part of much of what I do in life and who I am as a person. There’s not much in my day-to-day that Monotropism does not impact.My hyper-focus (tendency to focus deeply on one thing so intensely that time flies by, and I forget the world around me – and my bodily needs – exists) is both my greatest asset and my biggest weakness, depending on the day.

As if pulled by invisible external forces, things catch my interest, and I am drawn into them (often without realizing it’s happening).

My focus (and special interests) are like a large vessel in an intense current that I can steer (but do not have complete control over). I can nudge my focus in the right direction, but if it latches on to something (or not) is hardly up to me.

Often by the time I realize I’ve fallen into a hyper-focus tunnel, it’s too late (because I’ve already lost large blocks of time to whatever has stolen my attention from me) and will now be unable to get the new topic out of my mind, once it has taken hold.

Finding a new interest, hobby, or passion is like falling in love (and just as all-consuming as a new relationship can be).

As if Cupid’s magic arrow has struck me, my brain is suddenly filled with a desire to learn all I can about whatever topic has struck me.

If my attention tunnels into something positive and constructive (or at least on a problem that I can solve), my Monotropic tendencies can be a positive force in my life.

I often can’t let things go, even if I want to.

If my attention latches onto an unsolvable problem or any other unhelpful thought, this tendency to focus so deeply on one thing at a time can be torture (when my mind gets stuck on a loop, looping over and over again on the same hopeless problem).

My focus is so intense that I struggle to turn it off. It is a large and bulky item that is difficult to move, like a train with many cars that will take extra time to get up to speed and slow down.

The world around me melts away when I find my flow.

Time passes more quickly, hours feeling like minutes. I can spend hours, days, weeks, and even months (and sometimes years) with topics that refuse to leave my mind.Because I am overly focused in one area (or a few areas), it results in frequent neglect of everything else – from my relationships to my bodily needs (such as moving, bathroom breaks, eating, or drinking).

My focus is so deep and intense I often miss things outside of my focus zone.

This includes people in my life who care about me and are trying to connect with me.Time passes, and it feels like I’ve just seen my friends, but my friends often feel as if they’ve not seen me in a long time.

I am often absent, missing out on many opportunities to connect with people who genuinely care about me, because living with a mind driven by Monotropism is like having horse blinders on.

When I am hyper-focused, the rules of ADHD no longer apply, and my mind goes from squirrel brain to brain on a train rail, driving through a tunnel.

This train (my hyper-focused attention) is big and heavy, taking time to take off, stop, change directions, and slow down.

The best thing you can do for me when I’m in a state of positive hyper-focus (vs. the kind where I’m stuck in a loop of torture) is to get out of my way.

Once I get up to speed, I’m moving so fast that everything else (including time) fades away.

I am “in the zone,” “plugged in,” “in my groove” as I fall into (what I learned in my days as a flow artist before I knew I was Autistic) as a flow state.

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