Can autistic children play pretend? Does autism make kids unable to pretend play? Some people think so. Some believe that ASD diagnosed children are incapable of pretend play.
Dr. Stanley Greenspan certainly didn’t think so. In fact, the Greenspan Floortime model includes informed and effective play psychotherapy as a key aspect of its therapeutic process. Dr. Greenspan also taught that ASD youngsters can learn to play pretend at home with their parents.
In fact, pretend play engages a child’s emotions, including a child on the autism spectrum. Pretend play helps build a child’s use of words, concepts and symbols. Interactive drama can be a very effective therapeutic tool. On page 124 of their book Engaging Autism: Using the Floortime Approach to Help Children Relate, Communicate, and Think, Dr. Greenspan and Dr. Wieder say to “teach not just with words but also with images, actions, and drama.”
Engaging emotionally with the child is at the heart of Floortime. By emotionally engaging with their caregivers, children don’t merely come to value human interaction, they begin to actually enjoy emotional engagement. This is so much more wholesome and important than mere rote learning or behavioral instruction. Dr. Greenspan said that “once children, with or without ASD, learn the fun of interacting with another human being, it feels so glorious and natural to them that they begin seeking it out more and more.”
That enjoyment of fun interactions goes both ways of course. As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, imagine the joy and pleasure of emotionally engaging with your child. And, it’s never too late to start. Greenspan Floortime can be used with older children, teens, and adults to achieve authentic emotional engagement.
Learn more about Dr. Stanley Greenspan and the Greenspan Floortime approach. If you are new, we have a background and introduction to Greenspan Floortime including how it helps special needs children. We also have Greenspan Floortime training courses at Floortime U. specifically designed for parents and professionals including the Floortime Manual.