Impairment in imagination is another difficult concept to grasp as I yet again wonder what constitutes an impairment and who decides such a thing. I know for certain that Joe, with a predominant diagnosis of AD/HD, has a massive impairment in this area but on the surface he could be seen to be the most imaginative boy alive. I write more about that in Chapter 5: I am merely arguing that an impairment in my maybe trivial (after all I am 'only' a parent) opinion is when something hinders the child's or person's ability to function. Autistic people do not necessarily have no imagination, just one that differs from others.
Ben has just had the first birthday in which he could understand what was going on around him and even feel excitement at the fact that his birthday was imminent - an exciting time for all of us (although we soon realized that a birthday to Ben was a candle on a cake rather than the actual day and he doesn't actually grasp the concept at all). Each one of the children was so thrilled at the fact that Ben was looking forward to his birthday, that rather than buying autistic toys (things to line up, beads to push around on wires and containers to put things in and take things out of) they all bought toys that though developmen-tally are years below Ben's chronological age, are merely toys that a typical two- or three-year-old would likely enjoy. Funnily enough however, whilst the autistic, far away Ben of two years ago bears no resemblance to the chatty little chap who is eager to blow out his birthday candles, this particular birthday showed more evidence of Ben's impairment in imagination than ever before. Ben can now talk, he can now ask questions - boy can he ask questions.. .the same ones over and over and over regardless of the answers! As Ben was given his presents (unwrapped and having been told what they were first -wrapped presents turn him into a flicking, twirling wreck) he excitedly opened up a Spiderman figure only to ask "What does it do? What is it for?" over and over before it was discarded in disgust and he trotted back to his beloved PlayStation games.
Imaginative play is not the same as symbolic play and sometimes evidence of such play can cause professionals to hold back from giving a diagnosis. If a child copies someone pretending to drink from a toy cup then they merely have an ability to copy. Joe and Ben can sometimes play the most seemingly imaginative games going (all instructed by Joe with Ben merely trying hard to obey orders) but when listening carefully to them, they are merely performing roles that they have seen on the PlayStation.
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