Thursday, February 22, 2007

Puzzling Play

So I come home to find Buddy Boy and Sweet Pea playing a game quietly by themselves.

Yes, that's right. They were playing together (which isn't that unusual nowadays), but they were playing a game, which I've never seen them do unmoderated and without a big reward involved. And to top it off, they were playing quietly. They're never quiet together. It's always running, yelling, jumping off furniture, stuff like that. Sometimes crawling around making animal sounds. But never sitting on the floor, in one of their rooms, unsupervised, playing a game.

They were playing a memory matching game. One of those games where you lay out a few dozen cards face down on the floor/table. When it's their turn, each player turns over two cards. If the two cards match (their is only one match to each card) the match goes into their pile, and they get to choose two more cards. If the two cards don't match they get turned face down again. The one with the most cards in the pile at the end wins.

Well Buddy Boy (just turned 7) was getting his clock cleaned fairly well by his younger sister, Sweet Pea (5 next month). He was making some matches, but Sweet Pea was consistently ahead of him. I guess in some ways I would have predicted that. In addition to being PDD-NOS, Buddy Boy has ADHD symptoms. So I wouldn't expect him to be able to concentrate well on remembering where particular cards were. Though he did seem to be trying, and was somewhat frustrated by the fact that his sister had more matches. On the other hand, Buddy Boy is great at remembering routes in the car, which Sweet Pea is clueless about. She doesn't recognize she's near the house until she's two blocks away. Buddy Boy, on the other hand, knows where to turn to get to important places, and when we was 18 months old recognized the specific nondescript strip mall where a favorite Chinese restaurant was located. He would start to make noise and gesticulate whenever we went past it.

So I don't think that his memory was faulty, and I'm not sure that it was all a matter of concentration, as he did seem to be attending to the task at hand well enough.

One other difference I noticed in how they played this game was in their game strategy. Sweet Pea had quickly incorporated a successful strategy of when something that she thought she knew where the match was came up in Buddy Boy's pick, when it was her turn she first turned over the card that she thought matched the one she had just seen, and if she picked correctly, then turned over the (known) card that Buddy Boy had just revealed in his turn.

Buddy Boy, on the other hand, had a much less successful strategy. When he thought he knew where the two cards were, he first turned over the (known) card that had just been revealed in Sweet Pea's turn, and then turned over the card that he thought would match it. I tried to explain to him how to use the more successful strategy that Sweet Pea was using, but he just didn't seem to comprehend what I was getting at (perhaps my description was as clear as this written one :o ).

The whole episode just seemed amazing to me on many different levels. First, to see Buddy Boy voluntarily playing a game quietly with his sister was an amazing sight. It was HUGE!

Seconly, watching Buddy Boy and his sister playing like this was fun, because I could almost see how they were thinking.

Finally, it was interesting to see how something that Buddy Boy is very good at (remembering things) didn't serve him very well in a game that is mainly about, well, remembering things.

Each task in life is usually much more complex than we appreciate. What appears a simple task often is made up of a multitude of thought processes and actions. And even if part of the process is functioning well, the other parts are necessary in order to have optimum functioning of the system.

I'd love to see more research into how autistic people learn, and if there are common ways that autistics learn. Then maybe I could teach Buddy Boy his own successful strategies for keeping up with the Sweet Pea's of the world.

Joe is 207


kristina said...

Charlie also has a great memory for streets, car routes, train routes---for what I'll call the big picture. But guess who has to keep track of where his favorite things are in the house.......

Club 166 said...

We don't have to keep track of where Buddy Boy's favorite things are.

If something's missing (stuffed animal, dirty clothes that he doesn't want washed, a specific toy) I know it's in one of only a few spots in the house:

-His nightstand
-The back of his closet
-Stuffed behind the armoir that holds the TV

These "secret" places are where everything of value goes.

Daisy said...

Amigo keeps track of highway numbers when we're traveling. I still don't know why or how; he can't see them! But he knows which higways go to which cities in our state and which route he prefers to travel to various destinations.