In the world of competitive Rubik’s Cube solving, there is a term known as ‘look ahead.’ According to Ruwix.com, ‘look ahead’ is “a common expression used as advice to everyone who wants to get faster at solving the puzzle.”
For individuals with autism, successfully engaging in social interactions can prove challenging. There are so many factors, both internal and external, that can potentially be overwhelming. What becomes necessary is an ability to focus, concentrating on a particular stimulus or practice, which can provide a sense of control. Having such close concentration and constantly ‘looking ahead’ to solve a Rubik’s Cube puzzle can allow individuals with autism to focus more on the game than on the social and environmental factors that challenge them.
Autism Speaks shares the story of fifteen-year-old Max Park, who found his focus in the discipline and effort he puts into competitive cubing. Cubing refers to the sport of solving Rubik’s Cube puzzles as quickly as possible. Max, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), became the 2017 Rubik’s Cube World Champion.
Max holds cubing practices with his mother and coach, Miki, and, as his father told Autism Speaks, these practices are “opportunities for him to improve his social and communication skills: learning to make eye contact, understanding directions, and most importantly, learning to decipher non-verbal cues.”
Through cubing, Max has been given a means of interacting and socializing in an environment where he feels comfortable. Often, people have the misconception that, because he has autism, he doesn’t experience nervousness like everyone else. But his father confirms that Max can become just as nervous as others – and because of that, Max spends long hours practicing his cubing skills and honing his concentration until he is able to suppress his nervousness.
Max’s achievements are a wonderful example of the power in providing an outlet for individuals with autism. Through discipline and guidance, and by looking past what might be misconstrued as obstacles, almost anything is achievable. With a record cubing time of 5.87 seconds at the 2017 Rubik’s Cube Championships, Max is certainly the embodiment of that idea.
“Before cubing, Max had such a hard time looking at people in the eyes or even saying hello,” Max’s father told Autism Speaks, “but when he’s in a cubing competition, he’s much more open to looking at people in the eyes.”
To watch Max’s inspiring journey to becoming the 2017 Rubik’s Cube World Champion, click here.