As part of Logan’s at home ot program, I often have him do jigsaw puzzles. As Nana and Papa can attest to here, he clearly does not enjoy doing them. He feels incompetent and has some motor planning issues.
When he was younger, he could do the easy ones in no time flat. You know , the one where there are like 6 pieces in a wooden frame. I could never understand how that didn’t translate to the bigger puzzles. It was many years later (as in recently) that I realized that he had memorized the pattern of the pieces. He was never putting the puzzle together per say. He had no clue that the pieces matched and that’s why they went there. In his perspective, they went there because that’s where they came from and he could remember that easily whereas you and I would look to see if they matched because we could not remember where every piece came from.
Recently, I had him do a bigger puzzle that was simply out of his league. Puzzles require a great deal of concentration and different hemispheres of the brain to work together all at the same time. This takes a lot of work for a typical person. It can be nearly impossible in someone whose brain is already on high alert taking care of sensory needs and processing all the stimuli from his environment. Not that it can’t be done. It is just a task that has to be purposefully worked on and slowly.
You have to start slow and give the brain many opportunities to work on new synapses. For Logan this translates into 100 piece puzzles, search and finds and multi step directions. All are ways to work that area of the brain. What also needs to be remembered here is that I have to make him feel successful too. These things are hard for him even if they are easy for his 8 year old sister. It is a mentally draining task for him as well. I can’t spend the day working on this and expect him to do other educational things as well. So , we do little things each day. I pick things that I know he can do and try to add enough variation to stretch him a bit more. All the time making absolutely sure that the interaction ends on a positive note. While he can be tired after it and need a break, I don’t want to push him to the point of sheer exhaustion. He needs to be able to continue to function at an appropriate level for the rest of the day.
Does it always work? No. Sometimes I get caught up in other kids his age can do this mode and I push him too hard. Sometimes I get distracted and don’t catch the fatigue signals that he is sending out. Sometimes he really can do it and he is either being obstinate or his sensory stimuli is already on high alert. The point here is that we keep working on it and recognize it as a weakness. Who couldn’t use some work daily on their weaknesses? I certainly know some I could work on daily.