Past research has focused on pretend play in infants with autism because it is considered an early manifestation of symbolic or imaginative thinking. Contradictory research findings have challenged the meta-representational model. The intent of this paper is to propose that pretend play is the behavioral manifestation of developing imaginative ability, the complexity of which is determined by the degree of progression from part-object/inanimate object to whole-object/human object identification. We propose that autism is the result of non-completion of this process to varying degrees. This not only affects early pretend play behaviors, but also later social, language, and cognitive skills derived from the level of imagination-based sophistication achieved during foundational periods available for early identification.