Sorting suggestions

Sorting suggestions

I remember watching Poss play with her dolls one day, well before we got a diagnosis, years before we even had an inkling that she was on the spectrum. She was dressing them, lining them up, before undressing them again. I watched her repeat this process over and over again; intense concentration obvious on her little face.

Over the years, while behaviours have come in and out (like most kids), this one has stayed around. She goes through phases where it ramps up, and back down again, but it’s almost always in line with her anxiety levels. If we get up and find a file of blocks down the hallway or all the fridge magnets sorted by size and colour, you can bet we start worrying.

As much as it concerns us when it pops up out of the blue, there’s no doubt it seems to calm her. Concentrating on the order, usually with her tongue sticking out the side of her mouth and totally in the moment, creating calm out of chaos; whether it’s colour, size or the shape that she’s looking for.

I don’t always get it. In fact, when it’s all over our lounge room, I’m only grateful that she seems content, and I just try to suppress my need to tidy the floor before she’s done. But I do respect her meticulous way of doing it, and her commitment to seeing out a task is pretty impressive.

Every now and then, if we spot her anxiety before she feels it, we’ll suggest a sorting activity. Sometimes they take, sometimes they don’t. But I thought I might share a list of the things that seem to work well…

  • Buttons. My mum found a bag of buttons at an op-shop and Poss spent a weekend sorting them. First by size, then by colour, then she stacked them. Multiple uses, hours of sorting heaven.
  • Beads. I’ve written about Beados before, and we’ve recently discovered Hama beads. She has spent hours sorting them into colours, then has loved creating things out of them. Win, win!
  • Crafty crap. And I say that with all respect. Whether it’s pipe cleaners, those little coloured paddle pop sticks, pom poms; if it’s small we can sort it, count it and some days actually craft with it.
  • Blocks. This is a given and probably the first sorting experience lots of kids will have. We’ve got a few different types of blocks, both plastic (including Lego and Duplo) as well as wooden ones. I look for things that have a difference about them – size, colour, texture – to add to the sorting challenge.
  • Collections Over the years we’ve had collections of Footy cards, Zelfs, My Little Ponys, insects, gemstones and endless issues of those magazines that come with collectables. Whatever it is that sparks your kid’s interest, stick with it. Poss loves to sort them by rarity, by size, by colour… ticking them off the little sheets as they come in and saving up her pocket money for the next item on the list.

These are just suggestions, and of course it’s not always as organised as this! We’ve had some excellent sorting sessions with sticks and rocks, not to mention clumps of dirt and crap she’s shoved in her pockets during the day.

Granted, it’s not my idea of fun, but I swallow my own need for tidy and delve into what makes sense to her, a tiny insight into her world.  The irony of that last sentence is not lost on me. Maybe we’re more alike than I realise… (let’s not discuss the shoe collection that’s lined up in the bottom of my wardrobe…)

What are your kids into? What will you find them sorting in the early hours of the morning?

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  1. Pooh bears … Miss11 can tell you exactly how many she has, I think it’s over 30 and includes stuffed toys, pyjamas, jewellery, even an umbrella. we call Pooh her spirit guide and we rarely travel without at least one. when Mr15 was a toddler it was matchbox cars … he is still obsessed with cars. xt

  2. I can’t wait to try this out as a calming method. Hope it works for us as well.

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