You may already know that it’s pretty common for autistic kids to line up, group, stack, or otherwise organize things in their environment. Order can be a very helpful way of making sense of their surroundings and feeling more comfortable in it.
J-Man on the whole hasn’t seemed particularly concerned about this, though. Our house is generally chaotic-looking – to put it mildly – and this doesn’t seem to bother him a lot. He’s just not been a liner-upper. He tends to exhibit much more interest in the sequencing of events. He can remember pretty much entire stories and songs this way, at least in as much as we can tell how much he remembers. Using whatever technique he’s come up with, he exhibits extraordinary recall.
The occupational therapists we’ve worked with have intentionally tried to get him to stack like objects just to help him learn that more sophisticated – for him -level of fine motor control and planning. In the past, he’s either resisted it – out of principle I suppose – or just not been able to do it, or both. He’d stack maybe three blocks and then knock them down, or they’d fall down on their own because of how he stacked them.
Then all of the sudden recently, he started stacking his little wooden letter blocks through no prodding from us. These are the same wooden blocks he obsessively carried around with him for a while, and the same blocks he’s been able to identify some letters on. He now builds these impressive towers with them that almost defy gravity.
[Black stuff is crayons gone wild.]
I don’t know how some of them stay up. It’s cool to see how hard he concentrates on it and makes little adjustments so the whole thing will stay balanced. His current record is 11, mostly because the rest of the blocks are scattered all over the house and he just stopped at 11.
We also found these neat, weighted, bumpy, building blocks that essentially look like Tetris pieces. The bumpy and weighted aspects of them are intentionally part of their design for sensory-seeking kids. They’re called Bumpity Blocks from Development by Design, and we found them at our locally-owned, specialty-teaching-stuff store.
At first J-Man was pretty ‘eh’ about them, but he has started to really enjoy them and comes up with some really creative ways of stacking them and fitting them together.
By the way, that store – called The Teach Me Store – is the source of shopping addiction for local therapists and many parents of special needs kids around here. If you live anywhere near Raleigh, we highly recommend it.
So to make our way back to recall, here’s the intriguing thing I noticed du jour – when we’re on the back deck, he knows that the various brownish things on the deck are leaves and that they are related to the green leaves on the plant we have out there. He’s starting to really branch out in his sorting. He often will pick up the small, brown leaves and put them on the green leaves of the plants. Cool! I think it’s especially awesome that he tries to say ‘leaves’ and it comes out pretty well. But there’s something else fascinating.
What’s been really intriguing is that the next thing he does after pointing out the leaves – almost always – is to go get a piece of sidewalk chalk, walk over to the little table on the deck, draw a couple of lines, look at me, and then say his word for ‘color’. Like I said, ‘leaves’ then ‘color’ (with chalk coloring on that same table) almost always go in that order, even though they appear completely unrelated. Fascinating! It all comes back to him making sense of things and remembering things through sequencing.
What I particularly enjoy is that he engages in more eye contact and is much more interested in sharing his enjoyment in activities (joint attention and all that) when they are a part of a familiar sequence. Stories are a great example of how this works for him. At some point, I’ll try to record us reading “The Napping House”, easily the book of the month around here. His speech ability in those familiar books is mind-boggling when compared to his regular, daily speech.
And there’s your long and winding journey through our day! Thanks for reading.