Social imagination allows us to understand and predict other people's behaviour, make sense of abstract ideas, and to imagine situations outside our immediate daily routine. People with autism follow routines rigidly and favour predictability.
Those who experience challenges with social imagination may find it difficult to:
- determine and interpret other people's thoughts, feelings and actions;
- foresee what will or might occur next;
- identify hazards;
- engage in imaginative play and activities. Children with autism may enjoy some imaginative play but have a strong preference to act out familiar scenes;
- prepare for change and plan for the future;
- cope in new or unfamiliar situations which may result in the person becoming stressed;
- appreciate other people may not be interested in their topic of interest which they talk obsessively about; and
- attempt work if they feel they are unable to do it perfectly.
Difficulties with social imagination should not be mistaken with a lack of imagination. Many people with autism are very creative and go on to become accomplished artists, musicians or writers.