FROM KATE: Often times our children on the autism spectrum do not seem to understand the concept of imagination. Favoring more concrete play, or sensory based play such as rides, swings and rough and tumble. Here at the Autism Treatment Center of America we believe in creating interactions around what our children are already interested in, going with our child’s motivations. So if they are already interested in books, then we create games around books. If our children are seeking sensory based games such as swings, then, when our children initiate play with us, by looking at us or talking to us we would then offer a swing game.
How do we then introduce the concept of imagination games to children who are not at this moment showing a clear motivation for it?
1.By beginning to model it ourselves.
2.By marrying it to our child’s current motivation.
What does that look like?
If your child interacts mainly by your giving them a ride or a swing, then you could marry imagination into that game. By swinging them, and as you put them down after a swing, you could say something like:
“You have landed in a big pool of water, splash.” Or you could say, “Now you are landing in space”, and then you act as if you are in space without any gravity.” Or you could say, ” I am going to swing you into the land of soft animals“, and get down all the stuffed animals.
In this case you are not asking anything of your child, you are just adding an imaginary component to the play your child already interacts with.
If your child is motivated by books, when your child looks at you or shows interest in you, you could begin to dress up as the characters from the book. You could act out a scene from the book that they are enjoying.
Modeling what imaginative play looks like is the first step to exposing it to our children, and thus helping them digest it and learn about it.
Have a great week with your lovely children.