For quite a while now, the J-Man has been a Lego-maniac. We see this as a very good thing as he wouldn’t touch building blocks of any kind for forever – we suspect for a variety of sensory – particularly tactile – fine motor, and other motor planning/spatial relating sorts of issues. Like many other things, one day it just clicked and now he’s a building machine.
Our building fun currently comes with one significant issue we need to keep an eye on. He’s doing better and better with structured building activities based on a picture (build the simple structure in this picture – like six blocks of alternating colors in one column) or a finite number of blocks (assemble the blocks in this box in whatever way you want, but when they are all together, you’re done).
However, in ‘free build’ mode (here’s a bucket full of blocks, have at it), things can get much more difficult for him. He will sit there and essentially build the same structure over and over again until you stop him. It’s usually an impossible-looking, very tall (20-25+ Duplo blocks high often), skyscraper-like thing that is asymmetrical, defies many laws of physics and building codes, but that generally looks very impressive considering getting him to put two Legos together even a few months ago was nearly unheard of.
But since – despite his best efforts of steadying it with hands and even feet – the structure becomes too unsteady to stay upright. So it falls, breaks into several pieces, and then he tries to reassemble it back to where it was, which continues on to the same collapse of the same building and the repeat of the cycle.
One facet of this I’m not sure whether to be concerned about or not is the constant moaning he does while he’s building. He does vocalize in that way in other contexts, but not to the droning length it goes to while he’s building. He only pauses to breathe. I’ll admit it does wear on my nerves with a crying baby often nearby to add to the chorus. But besides that, this is an instance where reading his vocalization cues is hard for us.
Since he loves blocks so much, I feared interrupting this the other day, but I had to. His structure had the moment before collapsed into about four long sections, so I just took the open blocks bucket and said, “Time to clean up!” No real initial resistance, though he seemed to be largely ignoring me at first save for a brief interruption in the moaning. I just kept talking. “You made some awesome buildings today, and now it’s time to clean up! Daddy will start!” So I took a few extra blocks that were around the floor (not part of the original big structure) and put them in the bucket.
Then I said, “Now J-Man’s turn! Put in!” And much to my surprise, he hurriedly put those sections that had just a minute ago been part of that building and put them right straight into the bucket as they were. He then took what was left of the bottom of the building apart in a couple of quick motions and took the three pieces that left him with and put them in the bucket too. He grabbed the nearby lid, laid it on top of the bucket, and asked for help (“heh” or sometimes the halting but very interactive “Iiiiii wahhhhh heh”- “I want help” for the uninitiated) I pushed down on the lid until it clicked – and this bucket is hard to seal. In barely 30 seconds, the giant bucket of Duplos was cleaned up, mostly by him. Never would have predicted that one.
He sat there in his “I feel relieved” posture – upright, shoulders relaxed, eyes looking thoughtfully at something nearby, no stimming, no more groaning, and in a place receptive to maybe using some words if he feels like it. If he’s in a place where he’s really stressed and bouncing off the walls (literally), if we get him to where he’s in the relieved posture (through a whole repertoire of calming activities), it’s like J-man’s way of saying ‘thank you’. If you sit near him then, you can feel a real tenderness in his spirit that is the essence of who the J-Man is, almost like the real him underneath the stimmy wildman exterior.
OK, so one of the morals of the story. If you find your kids perseverating on something in a way that it seems like they’re stuck in an infinite loop, they may very well be stuck. Find a transitional cue and activity to end their loop and bring them to whatever the next thing should be. You may get resistance or meltdowns, both of which have happened here. But you also may discover what it looks like when you need to ‘rescue’ your child from their infinite loop. They may not know the way out, and if so, you have to show them. These are the sorts of decisions and actions they may rely on us to take for them until they can hopefully begin to learn that skill for themselves.
To the issue of Legos, a new Lego Store just opened here and I’m dying to go. I heard they built an 8-foot-tall Yoda for the grand opening. Squee!