Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sometimes a puzzle is just a puzzle | Outrunning The Storm

Sometimes a puzzle is just a puzzle | Nov 30th -0001

Charlie is on the floor in front of his 100 piece mini-puzzle of the earth. He is annoyed because the dog has been walking on it and a few pieces have come out and been mixed around.

Let’s just see here, he mumbles to himself, holding one of the pieces and checking the picture on the cover of the box to locate it’s proper home within the puzzle.

It wouldn’t seem like a moment to take note of to many, I think, but it makes me smile with a memory.

Charlie has always had a talent for puzzles. When we first started the insane in home therapy schedule of preschool a few years ago it was one of the ways his therapists used to engage him.

He used to put them together strictly by shape. He can spread out the pieces and look at the shapes and see which ones fit together. Sometimes he would match the color patterns from one shape to the next. What he never did was actually look at the picture he was trying to build.

This was a problem the therapists told me.

I should be working with him at seeing the big picture and starting his puzzle building by putting together the edge pieces first. This was how I was going to teach him problem solving skills.

The assumption, of course, being that since we are unable to fully comprehend his ability to visualize multiple pieces and how they might all fit together, surely there is a limit to the number of pieces he can hold in his mind. Surely, this is just some sort of party trick, but it is not real problem solving skills because it is not the way WE would solve the puzzle.

I reflect on this. I reflect on all the times my son’s talents have been dissected and handed back to me as a deficit. I reflect on all the times I have accepted it as true.

I never did work with him on learning the correct puzzle solving skills. Mostly, because at the end of the day there are always more therapeutic suggestions than there are hours in the day and I just tried to pick a few that seemed doable.

But, there is always that guilt that lives with me because of what I am not doing for my child. It’s the place for doubt and fear to creep in.  It’s the lingering feeling every time I see another child on the spectrum who seems to be succeeding beyond my own child. It’s the self doubt every time my child struggles. What if I had just tried this therapy? What if I had just worked harder at that task with him?

The systems in place to support us and our kids can sometimes do anything but that.

So, here Charlie sits, doing his beloved puzzles, checking his work against the big picture. He has added a new tool to his set of problem solving skills all on his own. A tool he has likely developed simply through the maturity brought by time.

It is the same way I am developing my tools for how to parent him. Time has brought me perspective. It has lessened my fears. It has deepened my understanding of him. It has taught me to safe guard his talents and unique ways of doing things as much as I work to add new tools to his tool kit.

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