Interest fixation

Playgroup NSW

Categories: Repetitive and Restrictive Behaviours

Your child might be so fascinated by a certain object that they may ignore everything else that is going on around them. Interest fixation in children with ASD is more intense and more focused, therefore you need to know how to approach your child when dealing with this. Learn why this happens, what you can do and the play activities you can try to reduce this fixation.


Jonathan loves to play with and talk about anything associated with trains. He becomes so fixated that he can’t focus on anything else.

Why does this happen?

Although all children can have intense interests at some point in their lives, the interest of children with ASD can be more intense and focused, to the point of excluding any other object or activity.

They may find it difficult to switch from one subject to another, or talking about their interest might help them feel more comfortable when conversing with others. Focusing on their interests may also be a way to self-soothe and feel more at ease in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations.

What can I do?

  • When Jonathan starts talking about trains at inappropriate times, politely remind him, “We’re talking about this now. We can talk about trains at morning tea time.”

  • Use a visual schedule for what will happen in the day. Include all activities including snack time when “train talk” is encouraged and another time slot when Jonathan will be able to play with train toys.

  • Use sharing techniques to allow children to become comfortable with others using their toys.

  • Help children to engage with something less familiar and then follow that with time for engaging with their interest. Gradually increase the time doing the unfamiliar and aim to decrease the time they spend fixated on their special interest.

Play activities

Incorporate interests into other activities to help reduce potential anxiety about trying new things and to support them in experiencing new games. For example, when playing a game such as Duck, Duck, Goose, use “train, train, boat” instead. You can also add trains to the sand pit.

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