Autism is a thoroughly debated and studied condition, and the symptoms and severity of symptoms vary so much that the condition has sparked many arguments. Theories have been devised regarding its causes and effects, and still there is no conclusive evidence for the reliability of such theories. However, this article is not intended to discuss such arguments, or to imply that we understand the condition as a whole; it is purely a discussion on the positive effects that seem to appear through imaginative play – from developing social skills, to enhancing concentration.
An aspect of autism that many children have is the nervousness and apprehension felt when faced with human contact. It can make many parents feel helpless and detached from their children, and often try all sorts of activities to soothe the children’s worries, but sometimes this can make it worse. However, the children seem to be able to recreate this human contact with their toys, quite often with dolls and even non-human-looking toys. This suggests that the children do see the benefit and need for close contact, and imitating parents’ actions shows a positive view of the contact, even if the child finds it difficult receiving this affection themselves.
Imaginative play lets us see the children recreate activities that they have seen happen in real life, and the more imaginative play that occurs during playtime, the more this can help with development in their social skills during interaction with people. Dolls Houses can become the perfect miniature version of real life, but one the child can control. By being in control of their toys, and creating their own little play worlds, the children can effectively decide exactly what happens and when; eliminating the anxiety that is felt during human contact which is usually controlled by parents. When the child begins to feel comfortable with this interaction with the dolls or toys, they are more likely to feel happy with human contact as the imaginative play has prepared them for this.
It is also lovely to see the amount of conversation that comes through imaginative play; words that don’t seem to surface at other times. The more the conversation is practiced, the more the child seems to feel comfortable in chatting in the same way to the parents and to the rest of the family. The toys of course don’t talk back, meaning that all communication is coming from the child themselves, which actually can encourage more imagination and thought than speaking to a person. So, the next time the kids seem to prefer to talk to their toys than their own parents, don’t worry – it’s perfectly normal, and actually wonderfully significant in their social development.