Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Imagine That

Lack of imaginative play is often cited as one of the characteristics of autism. But, I wonder if there is a difference between having the ability to do what most people would consider imaginative play, and actually having a good imagination.

I happen to think my son is one of the more creative people I know. He is certainly much more creative than I am. However, he doesn’t express his creativity in the way people traditionally think.

Kai does not often engage in make-believe play the way most kids do. He does not play doctor or pretend to be an astronaut or become Harry Potter like other kids might. He does not emulate sports stars or TV characters.

But he is constantly coming up with new ideas and doing things differently.

Last week, for instance, he created “soccer bowling” in which we kicked a soccer ball down our hallway to knock down bowling pins.

This past weekend, he grabbed all of our beach toys and we went out to the “snow beach,” a.k.a. our front yard, to build snow castles. His most creative moment came after we were finished building it when I told him that I did not want him to knock down the castle. For Kai, the best part of making a castle is knocking it down. So, he inventively told me that our creation was no longer a castle. It was, he said, nine Hanukkah candles. Then, he went to each mound of snow, the “candles,” and methodically crushed them to simulate the candles burning down.

Sometimes it is hard for someone like me who is much more “by the book” to keep up with Kai’s creativity.

For instance, he often likes to add his own rules on top of the regular rules of a game. So, when we play Crazy Eights, for example, anybody who plays a Crazy Eight card will have to perform some task that Kai has chosen for that game. I’d rather just play the game the regular way, but will follow his lead and go with the flow for him.

At times, though, his creativity seems to be just an excuse for infusing his love of numbers into a game. In Crazy Eights, as each card is played, he punches in all the numbers into a calculator and adds it up as we go along. The winner is awarded the final total of points from all of his addition.

About the closest Kai comes to typical imaginative play is being the teacher to his Ugly Doll students. Lately, he is enjoying teaching his Ugly pals how to build Electronic Snap Circuits, the science toy that he got for Christmas.

But, often, even this imaginative play becomes atypical. Instead of teaching the Ugly Dolls, he would talk to the electrical parts themselves as if they were real. “Hello, Mr. Diode.” “Come here, Mr. Lamp Socket.”

So, I ask, is that weird, or is it creative? Is it any more silly than a typical child talking to their inanimate doll or stuffed animal? Should we be correcting him, and let him know that you don’t talk to lamp sockets? Or, is it indicative of how creative his mind is?

I wonder if Picasso’s parents ever asked those questions.


  1. You're so right, who's to say what's 'normal' and what isn't?! this sounds quite like my 3 year old ASD girl and how I imagine she'll progress...
    Came to you through Jen's Blog Gems!

  2. It's great that you recognise your son's creativity and treasure it. You are right, it is this ability to think outside the box that makes history.

  3. Steph and Tat,
    Thanks for visiting my blog, and for your comments!


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