Autism and Jigsaw Puzzles

My daughter has autism. Her favorite activity is beading. She has thousands of beads that she plays with every day. Wherever she is, her beads are nearby. My daughter also enjoys jigsaw puzzles. I own a jigsaw puzzle company so she never has a shortage of puzzles to play with. I also enjoy doing puzzles. Our love of puzzles may take many different forms. I make my daughter custom jigsaw puzzles and once they are assembled she will try to name whatever or whoever is on the face of the puzzle. She recognizes the subject but she is mostly nonverbal and I’m just happy that she is using some words because she usually points instead. Custom jigsaw puzzles have also helped with her dexterity, memory and of course social interaction.

It is a coincidence that I turned my hobby of assembling jigsaw puzzles into a jigsaw puzzle business and brand and that the national symbol of autism is a blue puzzle piece. I completely understand that autism is puzzling and the puzzle piece is perfect to represent the thousands of people with autism. The logo suggests to me that autism is a puzzle that needs to be solved.

Whether I am watching my daughter solve a jigsaw puzzle or helping her, jigsaw puzzles have been instrumental in strengthening our bond. The look on her face shows me that she is proud and feels accomplished with each piece that she finds to complete the picture. Sometimes she goes into hyper-focus and will not stop until it’s solved. Hyper-focus can be a trait among those with autism. Sometimes it’s an advantage and other times it’s a disadvantage. It is my experience that solving jigsaw puzzles provides for her the same benefits that it would for a typically developing person.

A couple years ago, I was surprised to see that my daughter had turned the puzzles pieces over, took a marker and scribbled a drawing. She then proceeded to assemble the puzzle that she had created herself. I found this to be very creative.

So, parents, caregivers and teachers of people with autism might try turning over the jigsaw puzzle pieces to see if that sparks the autistic imagination. If the person likes it, and if they go into hyper-focus to solve it, then it might even be difficult to get them to stop. At the same time, if they like it, you can save money and use it as a teaching tool. Remember they learn differently so we must teach differently.

The next time you purchase a learning tool give jigsaw puzzles a second look. This fun and creative pastime can provide hours of fun and hours of learning and social interaction for the entire family.

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