Update on Imagination

Yesterday’s post—the update on questions—begs a follow-up: an update on imagination.

Before Martin was diagnosed, when we were investigating local preschools, Adrian and I spent twenty minutes in a Montessori classroom for three-through-five-year-olds. There I observed one boy, probably a three-year-old, engaging in several minutes of independent pretend play. He found a cloth square and an empty bottle and employed both to “clean” a mirror, swishing back-and-forth, examining his work and checking (I assume) for smudges, then re-polishing the spots he’d “missed.” It impressed me, to see him working so hard at an imaginary task. I recall thinking, Gosh, Martin doesn’t play like that, and then telling myself, Give him time.

Almost 18 months have passed since we visited that Montessori classroom, and Martin still doesn’t play like that. (And now, of course, I believe that the answer lies with intervention, more so than with time.) Imaginative play, it seems to me, does not emerge spontaneously from the linear thinking of an ASD kid. At least, imaginative play in the traditional, “creative” sense does not emerge spontaneously; on the other hand, I’ve seen many examples of quasi-imagination in ASD kids and adults, in terms of viewing problems or issues in unexpected ways.

Martin may be turning a corner in this arena, too. Over the past four days, I have jotted down four instances of Martin apparently using his imagination.

1. At his cranio-sacral therapist’s office, Martin picked up a bunny toy that makes a bell-like sound when jostled. Martin shook the bunny repeatedly, heard the sound, and said, “The bunny is playing the xylophone.” Then he moved the bunny to another area, shook it again, and said, “The bunny is playing the xylophone outside.”

2.  Martin was playing with a favorite toy, a pirate ship that he calls a “sail boat.” He rearranged the positions of the wooden pirate figures, then told me, “The pirates are sleeping in the boat.”

3. Martin loves guitars and often has one in hand, anything from a three-inch Christmas tree ornament in the shape of a guitar to a near full-size instrument. Yesterday, walking around with a guitar, he encountered an old stuffed bunny. He paired the toys and announced, “The bunny is going to play the guitar.”

4. On his Thomas & Friends train set, sitting alongside Thomas and Molly and Henry and Rosie and the others, Martin keeps a couple of miniature NYC Transit subway cars. One from the 6 line and one from the C line, to be exact. I noticed him playing with those two cars and asked what he was doing. Martin responded, “The C train is holding hands.” (The C train, I assume, was holding hands with the 6 train. Martin did not specify.)

If someone had told me, two years ago, that I would grab a sheet of paper to make a note every time my son shows imagination, I would have scoffed.

No scoffing today. Neural repair happens brick by brick by brick by brick, and it’s important to keep track of what’s being laid where.

Or so I imagine.

Martin, checking out some videos with his cousin and Adrian.

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