pretend play


Children on the autism spectrum lack the ability to engage in pretend play.

Got it?

Don’t forget that, ok? It’s important. We’ll come back to in a minute. But first, how about a few pictures from Sunday night dinner?

Ashley is thirsty. I’ll give her some Diet Coke.

(No, it’s not Diet Coke. No, we don’t drink Diet Coke. It’s a cup of ice that the waitress brought for the doll when Brooke announced that she was thirsty and that she would like a Diet Coke.)

Ashley is tired. I’ll give her a nap.

(I don’t know which I like better – the napkin blanket or the crayon pillow.)

Ashley wants to eat spaghetti. I made her some.

(Breadsticks make startlingly realistic spaghettis, no?)

Hey, Katie, we can be in a band! I’ll play the flute.

(A piece of styrofoam packing material will work just fine.)

Time to go home, Ashley. You need to buckle up.

(Safety first, kids.)

You would sit in the back, Mama. I will drive.

(Yes, I actually sat in the back and she pretended to drive us home. No, I wouldn’t give her the keys.)

And just for fun, let’s add in one from Monday morning. When Ashley joined some friends to watch the family production of The Three Little Pigs.

Ashley and Jesus are tight. I think she likes his hair. 


OK, so let’s review, shall we?


“Children on the autism spectrum lack the ability to engage in pretend play.”


Damn, what’s that word I’m looking for?

Give me a sec; I’ll think of it.

Oh, yeah …



Ed Note: I’ll be unable to blog for the next few days. (All good, just headed out of town and leaving the laptop behind.) Please feel free to talk amongst yourselves on the COMMUNITY SUPPORT PAGE and I’ll see you next week. ~ xo J 🙂

33 thoughts on “pretend play

  1. love this! following your posts has become part of my day. my three year old granddaughter is on the autism spectrum, and i cheer for her and i cheer for brooke!

  2. My entire classroom of boys who have autism create the most wild and amazing scenarios at recess. My favorite is when I get to be queen Mrs. L and they are knights or ambulance drivers wanting to save me. I much prefer it to being put in jail or locked in the dungeon. And when they ask me to play the part of the Pickle Monster and chase them around….pure joy. 🙂

  3. I was also told (Three times! By teachers we love and respect!) that my boy would probably “just not be into play,” and we should wait until he was older and he could relate to other kids through video game play. Pshaw. Every time I watch him sit down and come up with a pretend play scenario, on his own (he’s almost 5 now and after 3 years of practice it’s coming along!) I think of those words. And smile.

  4. OH JESS! I love this! My little lady has her dolls act out her favorite movie, The Goonies. She casts a variety of dolls and stuffed animals in the roles and starts the show…hmmm, but she has no skills for imaginative play? I, too, call BULLSHIT! Much love to Brooke and you for using your thinking caps!

  5. My 13 yr old has always assigned us characters from his favorite tv shows so we could act out MADE UP scenes with them. He tells jokes too…..and he actually gets them! Makes ya wonder if some of these “experts” have ever met a child with Autism, doesn’t it? LOL.

    • Jana,

      Love it. As for the ‘experts’, I don’t doubt that they’ve met children with autism. Hell, when they told me that about mine it certainly looked true. What I wonder is if they’ve ever taken the time to get to know older kids, teens, or adults with autism. Or if they’ve ever taken the time to actually get to *know* any of the autistic individuals with whom they come in contact. Cause what we see on the outside, at least in my experience, can be awfully different from what’s going on *inside*.


  6. Pretend play is still difficult for my son…but he does it. And when he does, well, I don’t have to tell anyone here how absolutely awesome it is.

  7. How adorable! I agree…..bull shit! And oh, good for you for leaving your lap top behind! Enjoy the time with you family! xo

  8. i’d totally agree. just because they can’t always communicate what’s going on internally doesn’t mean there isn’t a LOT going on in there. my son, who’s now 17, has been using imaginative play for years and still takes his “friends” with him wherever we go – thankfully. sometimes we help him by talking with his imaginary friends, – “oh, trevor looks scared, fred, what should he do?” then he’s not so scared and he can figure things out. sometimes it’s the only way he can get through a difficult situation.

  9. My 8 yr old pretend plays all the time.. he loves toys and has a fantastic imagination- his dx? plain old regular ordinary “Autism”. My 12 yr old is a different story- never did pretend play ever. His dx? Asperger’s.

  10. A little different with my son:) He has his own little Lego World going on!! Its really awesome when he builds something and it has a story behind it. I love to listen to his reasoning and thoughts about everything he builds. Helps me understand how his little, creative mind works:)

  11. ha-hah! and YES! Love, love, love 🙂 I have an album of all the pretend play my son “lacks the ability to do” also….them’s alot of pages!

  12. Awesome. Thank you for this. My son has a great imagination and many people try to dismiss his dx because of it. Endless frustration.

  13. My girl– after a program and practice and so much patience– is now feeding her baby doll goldfish crackers and listening for her penguin’s heartbeat. Never say never. Bravo for Brooke, and for my Emma.

  14. Jess, I hope that Brooke will one day know the hope she gives me every day. My Maddie Moo has so far to go but reading about Brooke’s accomplishments truly gives me peace of mind. One day Maddie will be playing with dolls and dancing- i just KNOW it!

    • Oh, Kasey, good for you for keeping the faith. My son is now 13 and he has friends (!), is in the band and even went to basketball camp this summer for the first time. 10 years ago I would never have imagined such progress. For so long it felt like one step forward, two steps back…but in reality the forward progress was indeed occurring, albeit at a glacial pace. Every child has his or her own timetable…Go Maddie Moo!

  15. As a Special Education teacher, I cringe when I hear other teachers/psychologists/social workers around me say that autistic children “lack” imaginative play. Hell, I’ve even heard a behavior consultant say it! I take pictures throughout the year of my students engaging in imaginative play and use those pictures (along with others taken throughout the year), into a scrapbook for the parents. Ok, and maybe to show those who are NOT knowledgeable enough, that YES, MY STUDENTS (“MY KIDS”) CAN ENGAGE IN IMAGINATIVE play! Love this post. ❤ THANK YOU!

  16. My 13 year old has every Thomas the Tank Engine train there is and he is always taking stories from the dvd’s and acting them out with his trains. He even makes movies with his camera and uploads them onto his computer. No imagination, I call BULLSHIT also!!! You go Brooke, make all those know it alls eat their words.

  17. See all your education worked because you learned to use compound words like Bull……
    We should never put a ceiling on our children no matter what… and of course you get it don’t you, smarty.

  18. It’s really a shame. When my son was little and I was looking for the warning signs, his ability for pretend play gave me a false sense of security. Everything you read tells you a child with autism cannot pretend. It most likely delayed his dx.

  19. Full marks – I have twin girls age 9, both diagnosed with ASD, one more than the other. Jess’ article describes EXACTLY how they play – I love those long rows of dolls and teds. The endless imaginative scenarios. Astley’s face and expression, the eyes, are just like our Masha, it makes me miss her even more (i’m away on business).

  20. Pingback: Changing the rules to fit perceptions…um, no. | Walkin' on the edge

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