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Jan / Feb 2014



Honoring Preferred Interests

Preferred Interest Checklist


YAP University




One of YAP's 10 Best Practices for serving people with autism and their families is Honoring Preferred Interests.  In order to do this, sometimes a support person or caregiver needs to be a detective to discover deep, personal interests that are not obvious to others, and sometimes he or she needs to be an advocate for the right of the person with autism to pursue their preferred interests.


In this newsletter, we focus on this key concept and provide you with resources and information to help you honor and unconditionally support the preferred interests of individuals you work with on the spectrum. 

 HPIHonoring Preferred Interests



toy-train2.jpgWe all have hobbies, interests and collections. These interests are often encouraged by our parents and our own choices.  For many of us, our interests led us to join groups, take classes or influenced our career path.  However, for individuals with autism, their interests, hobbies and collections are to frequently referred to as "obsessions."   Even in professional articles and video clips, they sometimes refer to an individual's interests as obsessions.


At Youth Advocate Program we want staff to embrace an individual's interests. We want to incorporate them into all aspects of their life to help facilitate engagement and learning.


Honoring preferred interests, sometimes referred to as "passions," is a central theme of Youth Advocate Programs' work and is used as an indicator of program quality. Children and adults on the autism spectrum have strong natural interests, just as we all do.   Research shows that acknowledging, sharing, and working with these interests brings great dividends: the person becomes more self-motivated and socially connected, and less dependent on prompts and artificial rewards.


Because of the communication challenges of autism, preferred interests (PI) may be overlooked. Due to the sensorimotor differences of autism, those interests may even be judged "odd" and actively discouraged. YAP expects that all staff will identify (in the client's plan) and actively support (through multiple settings and objectives, on an ongoing basis) the intense natural interests of people on the autism spectrum as an evidence-based approach to fostering their self-actualization and self-determination.

 PICPreferred Interests Checklist  


Engaging a child or adult in interactions that involve a preferred interest or "passion" is a powerful and necessary way to support social, communicative, and cognitive development.  This activity is fundamental to our work because:

  • It builds the security and trust needed for sound mental health and resilience.
  • It encourages self-motivation and self-determination, rather than dependence on prompts or artificial rewards.
  • It fosters self-confidence and self-esteem by demonstrating respect and belief in the person's intellect.
  • It opens the door to better observations and understanding of the individual we are supporting, so that we can continue to learn and improve our efforts. 

Preferred Interests Checklist - download




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yapuNew to YAP University!
Our autism curriculum is now presented as self-learning trainings. The following trainings are available: What is Autism?, Sensory & Motor, Communication 101, Community Integration, and Honoring Preferred Interests and Challenges.
Contact with any questions. 


The information and points of view contained in this newsletter are intended only to stimulate interest about topics of possibly shared concern.  Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. ("YAP") does not represent or endorse the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or reliability of any information contained in, linked, or otherwise accessed through this newsletter.  This newsletter does not contain  medical advice and YAP accepts no responsibility for any errors (or omissions) contained in this newsletter.