How can we help Children with Autism develop Imagination Skills?
One of the ways people work to develop their mind is through imagination. Very young children do not have a developed imagination but typical toddlers learn that people and things often seem to leave and disappear and then return. For example, when a caretaker leaves, the child generally wonders whether they will come back?
Children with autism may, however, go through these imaginative experiences much later than a child with typical development. Many people on the spectrum are late in developing pretending skills. When we play (dress up, dolls, super hero, etc.), we develop flexible interactions with others. People on the autism spectrum do not develop this way. School and social activities that call for imagination may be very difficult for them.
Even though there are developmental delays in the area of play and imagination, not all people on the spectrum are without imagination skills. Some have a fragmented development of imagination, having some parts of imagination development. This often means that a person with lower functioning autism can’t easily invent novel ideas or patterns of thinking.
When wanting a student on the autism spectrum to consider a new or imaginative thought, we should start with a known activity and use that as a bridge to link the new idea. For example, if the student is into helicopters, use that interest to bridge by asking the child to imagine the helicopter going to places that are in a picture book. If a student likes to copy cartoon sketches, have one person draw one part and the student add another part, taking turns to make a new picture.
These types of activities create bridges between that which the student is comfortable with and something new. By encouraging the development of imagination, students with autism may develop important life and social skills.
Learn More… Take this course: Introduction to Autism
Discuss Here: What are some ways you have helped children with autism develop their imagination?