Sometimes, however, our kids have difficulty with puzzles – despite their amazing visual memory – because seeing a part of the picture and then fitting it to the whole is a different kind of skill.
Also, some kids may have difficulty with busy puzzle patterns if they get overwhelmed by visual information. My son fits in this category. In this case, sorting pieces beforehand into edge pieces and similar colors can eliminate some of the confusion and/or strain.
To encourage exercise as well as training puzzle skills, our occupational therapist suggested setting up the puzzle frame on one end of the room (or hallway), and a handful of pieces on the other. Then the child rolls/crawls/hops all the way to the pieces.
Picking up the pieces and bringing them back can present a puzzle in itself. It encourages planning, as in: okay, now I need to crawl back to the puzzle frame, but I can’t do that very well with pieces in my hand. What should I do?
For the return voyage, I usually let my son choose his activity (with puzzle pieces in pocket, hand, or socks, or whatever he’s chosen). I’ve also seen a die rolled – each number representing a different form of movement – to mix things up and work muscles.
A specific mode of travel can be assigned for the trip back, although personally I’ve found that giving the child some power over his own fate helps with control issues and the resistance factor.
Yes, this all sounds very simple. But we’re working a bunch of skills here.
First, fitting a part to a whole, and learning how to puzzle. Second, strengthening muscles. Third, organization and planning.
Once the routine is established – moving to the pieces, picking them up, and then going back to the frame and putting together – then you can personalize the game in all sorts of ways.
As a bonus, focusing on the Topic of the moment works really well in this situation.
For instance, when everything with my son was about dinosaurs, our movement was all dinosaur related. When Superheroes reigned, Batman would roll (avoiding those pesky bullets) and climb tall buildings (army crawl) to save Robin.
Have fun with puzzles, and help develop and make the most of that incredible brain.
Note: Yes, many adults – and children – with AS are going to be puzzle wizards. Don’t think for a moment that I underestimate the power of visual gifts… I see it entirely too often in my own boys. 🙂