A York university study has found that imaginary friends could help autistic children.

A new study from York St John university has found, for the first time, that imaginary friends could bring ‘real world’ social benefits for autistic children.

The report concluded that parents of autistic children with imaginary friends found their children are better able to understand others’ minds and have stronger social skills than those autistic children with no imaginary friends.  

Senior Lecturer in Psychology Dr Paige Davis led the study: Autistic children who create imaginary companions: Evidence of social benefits, which has been published in the major, peer-reviewed, international journal, Autism.

Dr Davis specialises in research on imaginary companions.

She said: “This study provides further evidence that parents shouldn’t be worried about their children having imaginary friends.

“The companions could be helping autistic children to practise their social skills, potentially resulting in benefits that will help them to socialise in the real world.”