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Autistic children who create imaginary companions: Evidence of social benefits

Davis, Paige E. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0043-9991, Slater, Jessica, Marshall, David ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5969-9539 and Robins, Diana L (2022) Autistic children who create imaginary companions: Evidence of social benefits. Autism, 27 (1). pp. 244-252.

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Past research shows that autistic children can and do create imaginary companions (ICs), and that these ICs resemble those that neurotypical children create. Neurotypical children creating ICs have been found to have significantly more developed theory of mind (ToM) and social understanding among other enhanced social cognitive skills. The study set out to determine if this finding applies to autistic children. Parents of 124 (38 female) autistic children, ages from 5 to –12 years old, completed questionnaires evaluating communication, social understanding, and social skills. Children with ICs had significantly higher ToM and social skills scores regardless of their communication abilities. Findings suggest that there is a variability in ToM and social skills in autistic children in reference to an IC play profile. Results are discussed in terms of direction of causality and lab-based investigations.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/13623613221092195
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
School/Department: School of Education, Language and Psychology
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/6352

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