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Do Kids With Asperger's Have Trouble Being Imaginative?

By Lisa Fritscher ; Updated September 26, 2017
Kids with Asperger's might prefer to play alone.

Many experts believe that Asperger’s syndrome precludes the capacity for imagination, according to MyAspergersChild.com. However, many adults with Asperger’s syndrome simply have a different perspective. This dichotomy could be explained by breaking down the issues involved with imagination.

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Imaginative Play in Typical Children

Imaginative play occurs when children pretend that an alternate reality exists. Sometimes kids pretend to be a celebrity, other times they make up an elaborate fictional world. Typical children star in some of these dramas, while others are played out with dolls, stuffed animals or other inanimate objects. It is easy to see the imaginative play of typical children. In addition, many typical children draw others into their fantasy worlds. They assign roles, make up dialogue and narrate events as they occur.

Imaginative Play in Asperger’s Kids

For many children with Asperger’s, much of their imaginative play takes place inside their own heads. They don’t need the trappings. For example, Gavin Bollard writing at LifeWithAspergers.com, talks about how much he enjoyed the feeling of water on his fingers. He saw no need for a toy boat, but he could sit for hours with his hand in a bowl of water and pretend his fingers were an octopus or a jellyfish. Rudy Simone, writing at the Autism Support Network website, talks about how she loved to lie in bed at night, away from the noise of other people, and make up elaborate movies in her head.

Social Reciprocity and Communication

The original diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s syndrome included marked impairment in social interactions such as a lack of spontaneous sharing or a lack of social and emotional reciprocity. In addition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness points out that Asperger’s kids struggle with communication. These issues make it easy to believe that children with Asperger’s lack social imagination and empathy. However, some experts believe that people with Asperger’s syndrome have a significant amount of empathy, perhaps even more than typical people, according to the website Autism and Empathy. They simply have trouble demonstrating it in socially acceptable ways.

Rules and Control Issues

Many people with Asperger’s syndrome live by a highly codified set of rules. They have difficulty with changes and transitions, and try to take control of the world around them. When rigid-thinking Asperger’s kids attempt to enter into imaginative play with others, they might become overwhelmed or angry by the other child’s contributions. Because they often lack the communication skills to express their feelings, they might withdraw rather than attempting to continue the play session. In this case, it is not a lack of imagination but rather a lack of coping skills that ends the imaginative play.

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About the Author

Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer specializing in disabled adventure travel. She spent 15 years working for Central Florida theme parks and frequently travels with her disabled father. Fritscher's work can be found in both print and online mediums, including VisualTravelTours.com. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Florida.

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