Which in turn helps the caregiver.
Beverly Nance is a mom, caregiver to her autistic daughter, an entrepreneur and a born puzzler. She has been doing jigsaw puzzles since her 20’s and loves big puzzles of 1000 pieces. Frames come first and then the middle. With space dedicated to puzzles, she can come back and finish one the next day. For Beverly, it is a form of meditation and respite. Her dedicated space for puzzles is sacred space for her and running her hands through the pieces as she separates them into colors gives her peace.
But puzzles were put on the back burner after marrying and having two children. Beverly’s son was three when she had her daughter. Beverly knew something was going on, but the diagnosis of autism came too late for intervention. Autism is a spectrum disorder and Beverly’s daughter is on the lower end of the spectrum. Beverly is grateful to the Center for Autism and Related Disorders based in California for the services her daughter received from them. The services helped a lot, but she knows her daughter would probably have had a better experience if she had gotten an earlier diagnosis. Because no one in her family was autistic, Beverly did not even know what the diagnosis meant. What she had going for her was her gut instincts as a mom and observations of her daughter’s behavior.
Beverly is the first to tell you this was a difficult time. No two kids with autism are the same and she found it difficult to know what to do. She was still working full time, so puzzles were put aside when the diagnosis came in. It was later while going through her divorce that Beverly went back to puzzles to relax. Of course, trying to put together a 1000-piece puzzle with an autistic toddler who is fast and curious was a challenge.
“Autistic children have sensory issues, some things are very comforting for them while others make them afraid. For my daughter it is beads and other small things. She loves to touch beads and roll them through her hands. The small puzzle pieces were intriguing to her, but she was not able to put them together because of the size of the puzzle. I started to think if I could find a puzzle that would interest her, that would be something for her that would help her dexterity and keep her occupied, that would be great. I’m not a doctor, I’m just a mom. Honestly, I thought if I can get her working on puzzles, I can cook dinner and get cleaning done. It will serve both our purposes.”
Beverly found a man in Canada who makes small jigsaw puzzle machines. She knew from her daughter’s interest in her puzzles that too big a puzzle was beyond her attention span. That puzzle pieces need to be small because of her love of beads, but too small would be frustrating. Colorful puzzle pieces and an image that tickles her were important. Buying a machine that allowed her to make puzzles for her daughter made perfect sense. Not to mention, if she loses a puzzle piece, Beverly can make her a new one.
Beverly started making puzzles with two-by-two pieces which when finished is 8 ½ by 11. It works out to be between 36 to 48 pieces which are easy for her daughter to grasp. The first puzzle Beverly made was of her daughter’s image and she was tickled.
Beverly has learned a lot from her daughter about making puzzles for people with autism. The awesome thing is that all that translates into puzzles that work for people living with dementia as well. She knows that to create a puzzle which will engage a person living with dementia or autism you want to:
- Use a family picture or an image of something they love, like baseball.
- Use many colors. Something like a bear with a lot of brown is hard unless it’s a small puzzle.
- Keep the puzzle pieces big and the total puzzle small.
- Puzzling promotes social interaction, learning, patience, memory improvement and a form of mental exercise.
In addition to creating a puzzle from a picture you send her; Beverly offers sensory puzzles. Again, the idea came from her daughter. Because of her love of beads, she would place beads on top of puzzle pieces, but they would fall off. Along with something that enhances touch, each puzzle piece includes a scent from essential oils. You can expect a fall puzzle to have a scent like pumpkin or a summer puzzle to have something like sand on it for touch and with a scent that reminds you of summer. Designed for touch, sight, smell and taste, they truly are sensory.
When you receive a puzzle from Beverly, any sensory item is attached to the puzzle piece. A picture of what you are putting together is included before being carefully packed with air bags and sent off.
Making puzzles may have started to distract her daughter while Beverly got other things accomplished, but she quickly realized it engaged her daughter’s mind, improved her memory and was something she could do socially with other autistic children. Through this Puzzlebilities was born.
To learn more about Beverly and her puzzles, go to: https://puzzlebilities.com/
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.
Deb is available as a caregiver consultant. She will answer the question: “Where do I start?” and find the resources to alleviate your stress. If you would like to invest a half hour to learn how she can help you, please contact her at: Free 30 minute consulting call
Deb is the author of “Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.” This book explains how to have an intentional conversation and the how unspoken expectations can cause problems. Click here to learn more about Your Caregiver Relationship Contract.