Journey to the World of Make Believe

A few of the defining features of Asperger’s are mind-blindness (the inability to predict or understand someone else’s thoughts and feelings), rigidity of thought and an extremely literal interpretation of language, so pretend play has generally been almost impossible for Justin. When he first started his autism program, his behavior consultant held up a blue pen and asked him to imagine that it was something else: a stick, or a wand, or whatever. No go. Then she asked him to just pretend that it was a red pen. He got more and more agitated and insisted that it was a blue pen, it was clearly a blue pen, and it could never be anything else. Sigh.

So you can imagine how amazing it is to see Justin doing all kinds of pretending with Brayden these days. When we go to the playground, they each pretend to be cars racing in the World Grand Prix from Cars 2. They use the sand from the sandbox to build new roads for their cars, and then they race around on them. One of their favorite games is when we all pretend to be different dinosaurs, and we stomp around the living room roaring at each other. This kind of stuff is par for the course with most kids, but it’s a major step forward for a kid who couldn’t conceive a different color for the pen.

This week he astounded us by gathering all his stuffed animals, arranging them in a row in the living room, and announcing that they were his “audience” and he was going to perform a concert for us. But first everyone needed a “ticket”, so he handed out felt markers to us and the rest of the spectators. We turned on some music and watched as he (and his brother, who can’t tolerate being left out of anything) danced around the room. I couldn’t stop smiling. Awesome.