Interacting with the world – we all have to learn it one way or the other. So, better start early. Children’s play is probably one of the most powerful ways to explore opportunities, rules of conduct, hindrances, and limitations in what surrounds us. A playground can be harmful but is also a space for repossession and gaining confidence. In our play, for instance at the schoolyard, we learn how to communicate with others: setting rules, disabling interpersonal blockades, and negotiating arrangements. Not all children are efficacious tough. Children with autism fear the playground. To communicate, to interact in rapidly changing social interactions, to bend the rules if only for a short while; these are difficult things to manage for an autistic child. And other children spot this immediately. It is much safer for a child with autism to retract in an inner world of playful experimentation and exploration, in this way to be able to learn about the World. However, it is often considered bad that autistic children withdraw in mindful play, as if it is of a lesser kind (1) .
Fortunately, there is a study that gives a more detailed accounts. Autobiographies of adult autistic persons were carefully analyzed with regard to the nature of their play during childhood. What strikes most it the intensity and vividness of remembrances and height of sensory imaginations in the playful interaction with the ‘world’ in these memoirs. By using varying forms of pretending from different perspectives this play created representations that were orderly and predictable. And especially, provided an enjoyable play time activity.
Play can open a world not previously explored and enables creation of new horizons (2). What can be taken from these autobiographies is the strong sensory experience to get to know the real sense of things. In this way delivering a more intense involvement in what otherwise would remain perhaps superficial or unnoticed. The experience of vivid imagination allowed for a playful manipulation on details and specifics of objects. Children without autism could learn from such a deep engagement with the world of their fellow autistic playmates. That is, deploy another looking glass to gauge at what lies behind ‘normal’ things –, at least, that is what is the essence of play (3) .
Carmel Conn (2015) ‘Sensory highs’, ‘vivid rememberings’ and ‘interactive stimming’: children’s play cultures and experiences of friendship in autistic autobiographies, In:Disability & Society, 30:8, 1192-1206, To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2015.1081094