People often mistakenly assume children cannot distinguish between reality and pretend. This is untrue. It is more accurate to say that the line that seems so crisp and clean in our adult eyes, that sharp division between what is real and what is not, is more blurred in the world of child, where things are not so in focus yet because they don't have the information and experience we have as adults. Thus a child can know that dragons do not exist, but be afraid one is living under the bed.
I remember this blur in my childhood. I was certainly aware that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was a character in a made-up story, and not a real entity. Yet I was excited as a child to see the red glow in my window in the early hours of Christmas morning, thinking that Santa was here because I could see Rudolph's nose. (As an adult, I can surmise that red glow was probably the brake lights of my grandparents' car as they arrived for Christmas morning.) I was aware that Mr. King was a real person, yet when he appeared on my birthday wearing that famous red suit, he was and remains to me, Santa Claus Himself. The line that divided realty and fantasy was blurred, and my brain made connections between them that we as adults no longer make (well, except the adults who believe in ghosts. But we can discuss that in some other post.)
To my great delight and interest, Andy has an imaginary friend.
I have never known if Joey truly has an imaginary friend; the communication and language barriers, his use of echolalia to communicate and talk about the world around him, make it difficult to determine if he ever has had his own pretend friends who inhabit that blur between reality and make-believe. I can tell you that Joey does make-believe, and even has some running narrative to that make-believe, but I have such small snippets and snatched glimpses of that world, it is hard to say whether he has his own characters there, or he has simply lifted characters from known stories and shows. Certainly, he remains attached to Octopus, through not in the take-him-everywhere sort of way he used to be; his Little Bear remains a comfort to him, he still clings to Yellow Bus on occasion and becomes happy when Yellow Bus emerges from the toy pile. How much actual character do these entities have in his world? I suspect more than my brief glimpses would attest.
Andy's friend has emerged as an interesting character who appears throughout our daily routines and paths. I have been listening for clues and asking questions, and I am keen to learn more about this new member of our family circle. Here is what I have learned so far:
Our friend's name is T-Rex, or Dinosaur. I had started suspecting there were actually two friends (Andy usually differentiates between T-Rex and other "dinosaurs" [Its not a dinosaur! It's a T-Rex!]), but now I am convinced these two names are attached to the same friend. It is Andy's mood that determines which name is being used.
Dinosaur lives "out there" and often pops up "over there", that being somewhere outside the car, usually in clumps of trees or dense woods beside busy highways. However, Dinosaur can also appear near buildings, near stores, and even in parking lots or fields. When Dinosaur appears, he can be doing any number of activities, including hiding, having lunch, eating cows, playing, tickling, looking at us, playing with other dinosaurs, and playing with his friends the Lizards (remember our running bedtime story?). However, Dinosaur is never right here; he is always over there, doing something.
Dinosaur has an imaginary friend named Spooky. Spooky is a ghost, and also features in our bedtime stories. spooky likes to play hide-and-boo (you hide, and when the seeker gets close, you jump out and say 'boo!' and they are required to yell out 'AAAA!')
Dinosaur does not like to step on sidewalk cracks.
Dinosaur likes Grandma's house. He also likes cookies, lollipops, cake, bacon, and cows. Dinosaur likes to run very fast and win races. He also likes to blow bubbles and play hide=and-seek. He also apparently keeps his eye out for Andy at school.
I'll keep you posted as I find out more about our new friend.