Posted on: February 20, 2012

As with many parents reading this blog post I don’t think any of us can deny that we have spent hundreds, if not thousands of pounds on all sorts of different toys for our children.

Me & A’s Dad have done just that, & 99% of them are still brand new…

A has never shown much interest, if any in toys before, I really crave that moment when he can ask me for something inparticular, instead of me picking what I think he will like, wrapping it up and then with excitement watching him open it. He may look for a few seconds then its never touched again.

A, has no imagination.

Just stop for a moment to think what that’s like…
We all say to someone ‘Imagine doing……’ ‘Imagine having…….’
Without realising we imagine every day.
Its impossible for someone who can imagine to imagine not being able to imagine. (Very confusing)

The development of play in children who are Autistic is likely to be delayed due to the fact they lack in areas such as social imagination and flexibility of thought.

A is more likely to want to play with an object by chewing it or throwing it around rather than engaging in play with his peers, as its too over stimulating, resulting in most Autistic children prefering solitary play.

A used to line up toys, (and tins!) And instead of playing with toy cars he would be sat there spinning the wheels, this is because of his desire for sameness – predictability.

I’ve read that pretend play may be slow to develop or may develop in a repetitive way – one of the examples of this with A is how he ‘acts out’ certain scenes from his favourite cartoons or films just as they are happening.

Instead of playing doctors & nurses or cops and robbers, because he is Autistic he focuses more on the finer detail of things rather than the ‘bigger picture’ as that would be too much information for him to process & so he enjoys activities such as jigsaws, shapes, and matching & posting & loves numbers!

He really struggles with social play – its almost non-existent, he gets very frustrated when it comes to sharing and turn taking & this is something we have worked on for at least 12 months with little progress – I was told these skills need teaching sytematically and group games usually need adult support, which is where his 1-1 at nursery will encourage him. These skills, although important are very stressful due to lack of understanding and so they need very careful planning so that your child can keep relaxed.

A loves computer games (MARIO) and this is because its repetitive, he knows what will happen, there’s no surprises – but these often like with A become obsessions and even though sometimes its a relief for your child to have an interest its important such activities have rules & time limits should you feel they are too much.

A, like all Autistic children needs to be taught how to play rather than learning through play.

When he was put onto the Pathway in our area, which is the assessment route for Autism, he was assigned a Portage worker who came to our house each week and taught A to play, with bubbles, books, shape sorters, jigsaws, big space blankets and lots of other things – she found out over time what he enjoyed the most and helped us to enjoy games with A and to enable him to at least let us play alongside him or help him to complete a jigsaw.

She also set about starting A to learn how to share & take turns, he hated this at first & it often resulted in a meltdown but then the portage worker would sit with me and we would think of different strategies to help him – this was often by letting him take lead – he loves to be in control.

A would much rather we chased him or bounced him up & down or played rough and tumble – which is great for his sensory needs.

Its upsetting that we can’t play with him like we would other children of the same age group but as long as A is happy & enjoying doing his own thing as long as we encourage him to play with others and develop playing skills which will be great for his social interaction then we won’t go far wrong.

We’ve stopped buying toys we ‘think’ he’ll like, I used to think we hadn’t bought him enough if we hadn’t filled the whole living room.

Now we don’t spend hundreds at christmas & birthdays we just buy things we are CERTAIN he will love which is usually books, toys with lights or sound and of course Mario stuff.

As always please share your experiences with play and your childs favourite toys.

L x


5 Responses to "Imagination"

I would buy my son action figures a lot because that is what other boys his age enjoyed and he would never play with them. He just liked cars. He would line them up too. He loved to crash them together. He also acts out his shows he watches but it is hard for him to separate reality from fantasy.
He is 11 now and all he enjoys are movies and games.

We used to buy all the toys that we thought R as a little boy would like. Some got played with some did not. The ones that were played with were usually soft toys that he cuddled or one that had lights or made noise. When cousins came round to play we would comment how messy they were as R was always tidy and didn’t leave his toys about. The reality was that R wasn’t playing with his toys and his cousins were just being normal kids!!

Now R will tell us what he wants for Xmas and birthdays. He will make his list for Santa and it gets posted off along with his sisters. The presents are delivered on Xmas morning and R will open them, look at them and see what they do. Then they are packed away never to be looked at again, except for the cuddly toys and books.

R is very much into the computer and spends hrs looking at Google Earth. He likes seeing where we live, where we go to and using the street view function to ‘Walk The Roads” in and around our local area.

He recently got an iPad. This is a fantastic piece of technology. He is using the various Apps we have downloaded to help with his speech, writing and fine motor skills but the biggest change is that he is using it as a point of interest when around other children and friends. He will show off what he can do and lets them have a go as well!!

Little bit never participated in imaginary play when Dx at 18 mo. It took months of therapy before she would even pick up a doll or stuff animal and pretend to be “mommy”. She will do role play now with us and her sister as long as it involves her favorite characters like Mario or Kirby. (Wii) I believe she would never leave the computer, wii, and iPad if we did not restrict the time. Outside time has to be on her schedule or she does not want to go out.

I think the thing weve learnt over the years, (and its taken us years), is to accept M does things when he does them. Its never the same ages as his peers. When he was younger I used to get very upset by that, but Ive learnt its OK, he does it when he does it, and its usually so worth the wait and a massive achievement. Ive learnt that what others take for granted can be fantastic for us.

When M was younger, XMas, birthdays etc were a nightmare, it used to break my heart. He hated wrapped presents, couldn’t cope with not knowing what was inside. We had to put them all in a big box, and get 1 out occassionally. I used to feel so sad on XMas morning thinking other kids were ripping into the presents with excitement, and M was frightened. Over time we learnt to play it all down and follow his lead. When we had given up thinking it would ever get better at about age 7 it did, he started to understand that presents were good. We also learnt to change the rules, M chooses all his pressies for his Santa list, we go on the internet, mainly Amazon and look at everything. Yes it takes away the suprise element, but he knows Santa delivers them and loves that without the stress of the unknown.

Last year, at 11, we took him to see Santa for the first time, he was the oldest in there, all the others about age 5, but he loved it, said to me “See he is real”, he was so excited. I tell you what, its been a long time coming but so so worth the wait”.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, things do happen, just at a different pace.

Keep up the fab posting, its so good.


My son only ever expressed an interest in Thomas The Tank but he would spend all day lining them up moving them along and lining them up and lying on the floor carefully studying them, we have progressed to his age of 14 to Dr Who figures, but he collects the figures, takes them out of packaging keeps all the cardboard out of every packet and then meticulously stands figures up on shelves to be displayed, noone is allowed to play or look at them. Dx

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