There are so many webpages out there which purport to describe exactly what a typical autistic person is like. High on that list is the statement that autistic and Asperger’s readers greatly prefer to read non-fiction because it is logical and rule-based. These readers like to read about trains and elevators and other straightforward mechanical-based objects.
Is that really true?
In 2018, researchers worked with parents of children on the autism spectrum. The children were between the ages of 8 and 14.
It turns out children who had better social skills, and could communicate better with their peers, also enjoyed reading fictional works which typically involve characters and dialogue. Those children with more challenge in their social skills tended toward reading non-fiction, where that type of narrative plot wasn’t an issue.
Asperger’s and SciFi / Fantasy
Due to my relationships with local support groups, I know quite a lot of people on the Asperger’s and Autism spectrum. Part of what’s interesting to me is how strongly the Asperger’s Science Fiction / Fantasy community identifies with their specific sub-set of traits.
There is a block of Asperger’s readers who adore Science Fiction and Fantasy. They pour their Asperger’s focus into Star Wars or Star Trek or Lord of the Rings or whatever their chosen universe is. Some choose the Marvel universe. Others choose Doctor Who.
In that realm, they can find others who share their obsessive interest and who welcome them as a fellow tribe member. The person finds joy in belonging. They begin to cross-identify their focused creative intelligence of Asperger’s with the love of science fiction and fantasy as if they two are natural parts of a whole.
I am all for people finding where they belong. With finding a place they can be who they want to be, whatever that is. At the same time, I think it’s important we realize that the SciFi – Fantasy – Aspergers subgroup is just one of many subgroups. And just as it’s important for them to belong in their space, it’s just as important for other people with Aspergers and Autism to be comfortable that they do NOT have to belong in that same space.
There are many, many people on the Asperger’s and Autism spectrum who dislike science fiction and fantasy. They strongly prefer books about non-fiction subjects like dinosaurs or volcanoes. That is great! That is fine!
There are many on the spectrum who adore literature books. Maybe they adore Jane Austen books and obsess about those. Maybe they love noir mysteries! We are all unique, different people. Whatever brings us joy to read, that is where we should delve.
I know it can be tempting to find a page about Autism and say “those are the traits, so I need to match those.” BE YOURSELF. Enjoy what you enjoy. Whether you love reading about dinosaurs or trains, fantasy worlds or historical romances, be you. Treasure you. There are people out there who also adore your chosen topic area. Find your tribe and rejoice in your unique personality.
What type of books do you love reading? Let me know in the comments or on the social network sites!
The research on Autistic readers:
My post about my own reading preferences, from December 2019 –