A characteristic of autism spectrum disorders is having ‘special interests’. What differentiates a special interest from a hobby is the quality and intensity of these interests. It is difficult to state easily what the difference is between a person on the spectrum’s ‘special interest’ and a neurotypical person’s ‘hobby.’ Can a neurotypical person have a special interest, or are special interests exclusive to ASD? I think that anybody can have interests and hobbies but the addition of the word ‘special’ is probably best used only in relation to ASD.
For the purpose of this article, I will use the word “interest” as an equivalent to “hobby” when referring to a neurotypical. It just makes any comparisons easier to write about and understand.