Whether you are new to the theory or interested in digging deeper, there are many possible places to start.

In Brief…

What is monotropism?

Monotropism is a neurodiversity affirming theory of autism (Murray et al 2005).
Autistic /ADHD/ AuDHD people are more likely to be monotropic
(Garau et al., 2023).

Monotropic people have an interest based nervous system. This
means they focus more of their attention resources on fewer things at any one time compared to other people who may be polytropic.

Things outside an attention tunnel may get missed and moving
between attention tunnels can be difficult and take a lot of energy.

Monotropism can have a positive and negative impact on sensory, social and communication needs depending on the environment, support provided and how a person manages their mind and body.

Autistic Realms
Neurodiversity Affirming
Infinity Symbol

Community input from various social media platforms to help define monotropism
January 2024

The animation below is an accessible 4-minute introduction to the key ideas.

Access note: the visuals in this video provide a semi-abstract interpretation of the words, and are not required to understand the content. There is a shattering sound at around 2:50.

This animation written and narrated by Kieran Rose and animated by Josh Knowles Animation; was commissioned by Health Education England and produced by AT Autism and Anna Freud National Centre, originally as part of training Tier 4 mental health practitioners (#Tier4AFC) led by Dr Pavlopoulou and Dr Moyse. If you would like to find out more about the training please email the team on

Starting Points for Understanding Autism by Fergus Murray (español) is around a 10-minute written introduction to these ideas, starting with:

I believe that the best way to understand autistic minds is in terms of a thinking style which tends to concentrate resources in a few interests and concerns at any time, rather than distributing them widely. This style of processing, monotropism, explains many features of autistic experience that may initially seem puzzling, and shows how they are connected.

Fergus also talks through these in a nine-minute video here, and Autistic Realms summarises these ideas in one of her free ebooks here. Another looks at monotropism & transitions, while her ebook on monotropism and preventing burnout is £5.

The Monotropism entry in Autism Understood is geared towards younger readers, as are these comic strips by SALT for my Squid which explain some of the central ideas very simply. If you prefer a slideshow type of presentation, try this from Autienelle or this en español; or this comic from Neuro Divers.

While Monotropism was developed as a theory of autism, it appears that it also describes many people’s experiences with ADHD – see our page about that. If you have just recently come to think you might be monotropic, see I’m Monotropic… Now What?

More Videos


Longer Articles and Papers

The 2005 paper Attention, monotropism and the diagnostic criteria for autism (pdf, epub, journal) by Dinah Murray, Wenn Lawson and Mike Lesser is the key academic text, with Wenn’s book The Passionate Mind going into a good deal more depth and his 2013 paper for OA Autism looking at it from more of a neuroscience angle. Dinah and Mike were interviewed for The Observer in 2005: ‘Say it loud, autistic and proud‘. Dinah also wrote the Monotropism entry for the Volkmar Encyclopedia of Autism; her chapter Dimensions of Difference for The Neurodiversity Reader is an update on her thinking.

The article Me and Monotropism: A unified theory of autism by Dinah’s youngest, curator of this site Fergus Murray, is relatively accessible, and shouldn’t take most readers more than 15 minutes to read. It has also been translated into Spanish (español), Norwegian (Norsk) and Hungarian (magyar nyelv).

“In a State of Flow”: A Qualitative Examination of Autistic Adults’ Phenomenological Experiences of Task Immersion (Rapaport et al, 2023) looks at what monotropism, flow states and hyperfocus mean for autistic people.

Stimpunks has a substantial glossary entry on monotropism, drawing on many of the above sources. They also have a longer article ‘Redefining Autism Science with Monotropism and the Double Empathy Problem‘ with many jumping off points to learn more.

More About Autism

So what exactly is autism?’ (pdf) (Damian Milton 2012) provides a good overview of autism theory (as of 2012) and makes a strong case for Monotropism.

A Critical Realist Approach on Autism (Marianthi Kourti 2021) argues that the Double Empathy Problem and Monotropism both ‘provide a theory of autism that is deeper than the neurotypical counterparts they are responding to’ by bringing in the insights of autistic people.

Understanding and Working with the Spectrum of Autism (book, Wenn Lawson 2001) was well ahead of its time, presenting an autistic view of what it means to be autistic, together with detailed insights on how to work with autistic people.

Keeping it all inside‘ (pdf) (Cathy Wassell & Emily Burke 2022) is a very informative ‘white paper on an internal presentation of autism and why it’s often missed’ – focusing on what autism is more likely to look like in girls, while being clear that it can present much the same way in people of any gender.

Atypical resource allocation may contribute to many aspects of autism
(Emily J. Goldknopf 2013) looks at neurological evidence that fits with the hypothesis that autistic processing resources tend to be more concentrated.

Roundabout Hypothesis (Chris Memmott 2018) is a metaphor or model for autistic thinking, which is closely related to monotropism. Another one is Splines Theory: A Spoons Metaphor for Autism (Luna Corbden 2013).

An Updated Monotropism theory: A Developmental Model & Pathological Demand-Avoidance‘ (video, Richard Woods 2019, revised 2022) explores the relationship between monotropism, anxiety and demand avoidance.

Theories and Practice in Autism (Fergus Murray 2018) introduces six starting points for understanding autism (español) in terms of monotropism:

  1. Coping with multiple channels is hard
    This can be sensory channels or other information streams.
  2. Filtering is tricky and error-prone
    Sometimes I can’t tune things out, other times I filter them out completely.
  3. Changing tracks is destabilising
    Task-switching is hard, and new plans take work.
  4. I often experience things intensely
    Usually things that relate to my concerns and interests.
  5. I keep looping back to my interests and concerns
    It’s hard to let things drop.
  6. Other things that drop out of my awareness tend to stay dropped
    I may need reminders.

See also Monotropism In Practice.

Illustration: gazing at a sky full of stars, linked in concentric circles.
A still by Josh Knowles from the animation above

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