Many people believe that those with Asperger’s syndrome lack imagination. Indeed, itis often cited as a diagnostic criteria. In fact, people with Asperger’s often have a very high level of creative ability – it is just different from usual. Ask a person with Asperger’s to add two and two and they get it right, ask them if two builder each have two bricks and then a man takes one away from one of them and they may have problems. This is because you are asking them to conceptualise and thisis difficult for them to do. Children with Asperger’s find maths problems difficult if they are surrounded by mis-leading facts. Take the bulders away and leave the numbers and all is well.
However, those with Asperger’s syndrome can learn – and they learn quickly. One way to do this is to teach their imagination to switch on and this is done through role play. From a young age, our son could not do drama or other activities where he was asked to place himself in another person’s place or empathise as this is something which is difficult for people with Asperger’s to do. However, come at it from another angle and you will see they do have imagination. Invent some characters, not related to real situations and you will find they give them names, characteristics, habits and all kinds of things which the textbook says Asperger’s sufferers cannot do.
We have living in our house ‘a monk’. He is 152 years old, has a girlfriend called Agnes who is 150. They live in an abbey which no-one else can see in the wilder part of our garden. We also have friends who are farmers called Henry, Bill, Norman and Ed. They work in the fields and whenever we see a tractor drive by, you can bet one of them is driving. Ed lives in a pigsty which Norman owns at the bottom of the hill in the valley near us and he relies on Norman for harvest work (they grow carrots). Because none of these people is real, it allows our son to use and develop his imagination and it does not matter if he gets things wrong – they are not real – he knows this but loves the game of invention.
It worries me that once, when driving, I found myself talking to the monk, telling him about the numpty who just pulled out in front of me – I was wondering who had Aspergers!
Coping with Asperger’s syndrome and creativity is not the dead end many people think it is, you just have to come at things from a different angle. Teachers now know that if they read a book and ask our son to write about one of the characters, he finds it hard because he just read about them so only knows a few facts but, ask him to invent a brother for a character in the book and he writes loads about the sort of person they might be, their traits, likes and dislikes and you see a wholly different kind of creativity come about.
Asperger’s syndrome affects creativity in one way but opens many doors in others.