Monday 26 October 2015

Rocky reality: Autism and imagination

Storm trooper

We were so pleased when Anthony started using his imagination. It was something we absolutely encouraged. Suddenly Anthony was Tree Fu Tom, Ironman and then Anakin Skywalker. We recently watched the new Star Wars trailer. We watched and waited for the same questions, the questions we've taught Anthony ask so he is able to understand that the movie is not real.

Using your imagination often involves thinking about being something you are not and looking at things from the perspective of another. This can be extremely difficult for some people and especially young children with autism. Anthony needed help to use his imagination. Put a sparkly pencil into Jane's hand and despite being two years old she becomes a fairy princess. Anthony's first dressing up outfits, however, had to be exact - the right colours, items of clothing etc. We now sometimes have the opposite difficulty.

Anthony can now be anyone on the television. However, Anthony takes things very literally. To Anthony, there is no difference between watching the news and watching Harry Potter. He once asked for a wand like Harry Potter but I knew he'd be disappointed when he wouldn't actually be able to do a spell. When it came to Star Wars, Anthony started having difficulty getting to sleep as he truly believed Darth Maul was coming to kill him. We had to help Anthony understand what was real without dampening his imaginative spirit.

As Anthony's initial fears revolved around the 'villains' in films this is what we chose to challenge, and we started with Darth Maul. We talked about actors 'pretending' but this was difficult. Anthony is a very visual learner, so we showed Anthony a photo of the actor who plays the villain. There he was, no red/black skin, no horns, no pointy teeth and so on. This has been the key. Following movies and trailers, Anthony asks us to see the different actors. He sees who they 'really' are and understands their characters are not real. It's even extended to asking who the 'voice' behind cartoon or CGI characters are.

This has allowed Anthony to enjoy the films, continue his play and distinguish between the pretend and the real on the screen. His favourite role-play how involve him being the villain. And I can look forward to a half term full of magic wands and lightsaber fights.

External Links
NAS - Imagination in my special brother


  1. I really like this post. I have a nephew with autism and a lot of the times, it is hard to remember that they are very visual learners. Thank you for sharing! :) #twinklytuesday

  2. Gosh — I can see how difficult he must find it to differentiate between real life and someone acting the part. It must be so hard to explain that too, to someone that doesn't truly understand. A really interesting post. Thanks so much for linking up with us on #TwinklyTuesday


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