As we develop greater awareness and acceptance of autism, attitudes are thankfully changing towards the valuing of neuro-diversity and to talk positively of ‘special interests’ rather than negatively-loaded term 'obsessions'.
A rather wonderful example of this positive shift exists in South East London in the form of ‘The Engine Shed SW16’. Meeting one Saturday a month at SYCT Streatham Youth Centre, the group provides a safe space for autistic children and young people (and their families) to explore their interest in trains. From Tomy and Brio through to Hornby Model Railways, there is something to spark the interest of any train enthusiast. The children and young people take the lead in building and extending the tracks; they are engaged in teamwork, communication and problem-solving together, sharing their interests with minimal adult support.
Led by Richard Semmens and supported by a rota of volunteers (other autistic railway enthusiasts, parents and autism allies) the future of valuing autism and special interests is definitely on the right track!