Monday, April 9, 2012

Hallucination or Imagination?

My son has a powerful sense of imagination. It's clear to me that it's very vivid to him and has created concern. Not only can he drift off in his imagination at any unexpected moment, but it can be very hard to reel him in. It takes him off task and delays in getting things done. Drifting off into your own world is fairly common for children with autism (who were once considered Asperger's). But what if this is something more than imagination? What are the risks of hallucinations. What do you watch for?

Having a powerful imagination can be unsettling. Just ask Stephen King, who once stated in an interview that he uses a nightlight or leaves his closet light on. Maybe he said that to sell on how scary his stories can be, but then again, who remembers being scared of the dark as a child? A vivid imagination can take some understanding.

According to the article in this LINK, there is a significant difference you can watch for. Better yet, let me quote it:

"True hallucinations, unlike normal childhood imaginary play, are often frightening to the child and cause great distress. They come on suddenly without warning and often linger around for a while before suddenly disappearing. Whether the hallucinations are short or last for a longer duration, the fear and panic they cause the child is very real."

Hallucinations are not part of the description of the autism scale and its comorbidities. But that doesn't make them impossible.  While schizoprenia is extremely rare in children, there are other things that can lend to hallucination. You can see them in the same article but here:

-Lack of sleep
-Reactions to medication
-Illnesses like cancer or with various internal organs
-concussion or other head injury
-severe psychological trauma

Imagination is powerful, there's no doubt about that, but most of it is normal under given circumstances. If your child is excited about Christmas or Easter, for example, he or she may swear up and down that they saw Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. This is fine and changes as they catch up in maturity.

Speaking of maturity, it's also important to remember that our autism kids (Asperger's) are often delayed in maturity so this may happen in years that are considered inappropriate. Support to your child and reminders of reality versus imagination are usually sufficient in coping with this process. Under most circumstances, such as seeing Santa Claus, you can disregard. You don't want to put undue pressure on your child to mature at a pace they aren't capable of.

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