What do you see? Most people see a Lego set that is was put together with one piece missing. If you are on the autism spectrum you might see a completely imperfect set that was missing a major part that totally prevented you from following the instructions. Did you lose the piece? Where could it be? I didn’t hear it fall. I know I didn’t. When did I last have it? Did I ever have it? Was it in the box? Did they not put it in the box? How could they not put it in the box? Why would they not put it in the box? It’s not right if they didn’t put it in the box? What do I do? I’m going to cry and run away.
This is what I witnessed a couple days after Christmas. Mari has found something she really enjoys and that’s Lego Friends. When she first started putting them together she had a really hard time asking for help (another aspect of her ASD). We got past that after we talked through some strategies like me showing her how to put some pieces together and then taking them apart so she could do it herself. This incident was on a totally different level. I had no idea how to help her and so my suggestion was that I would figure out how to get the piece and that she should do something else in the meantime.
The next couple days I asked her if she wanted to go back to building and that she could finish the whole thing and just put the last piece together when we got it. She still couldn’t get past the idea of not completing the instructions fully before moving on.
A day or so later, I checked up on her and she was working on the set again and was almost done (except for the missing piece of course)! After she finished we had this conversation: Me: How did you get past having a piece missing? Mari: I just restated the problem. Me: Is that one of your strategies for getting past problems? Mari: No, it’s actually one of the steps for getting feedback. If someone says something not nice, you restate the feedback to something nicer. Me: So you “restated” putting the Lego set together? Mari: Yes, that is what I just said.
I was blown away. I don’t know exactly how she restated the problem in her mind, but the conceptual leap she made to take a step from receiving feedback and applying it as a strategy to get past a Lego piece missing is the most vivid sign that all her hard work in therapy is helping.