LEGO has been an existing play resource for many years; however it is now being used in many schools across the UK for therapy rather than just to keep children entertained. Researchers have identified the particular benefits that LEGO has with children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) – mainly supporting them to develop their communication skills and utilise their system focused skills. As the LEGO system of bricks is highly structured, predictable and a systematic resource, it is likely that children with ASD will become motivated when they engage with LEGO focused tasks.
What is LEGO Therapy?
LEGO System Therapy uses a number of important elements under the ‘Play Therapy’ umbrella within ASD research, in order to engage children with communication skills and group activities:
– Children participating first learn a set of clear ‘LEGO Club’ rules and develop LEGO brick building skills, including collaborative building, in individual therapy.
– They are then introduced to a group of peers, including some group members who do not have social skills deficits.
– The group meets on a regular basis (preferably weekly) for ~90 minutes and during that time engages in collaborative LEGO brick building activities and other projects, tailored to the skill level of the participants.
– The tasks are analysed and different responsibilities are assigned to group members (typically these roles a”director”, ‘engineer’; ‘supplier’; and ‘builder’).
– The team works together to assemble the project with and an emphasis on verbal and non-verbal communication, joint attention and task focus, collaborative problem-solving, sharing and turn-taking (switching roles during the task).
– During the LEGO system therapy sessions, social conventions can be directly instructed or prompted, based on the needs of the peers. For example, if two peers are physically fighting over a LEGO elements, the supervisors can redirect the children to use language, negotiation, and compromise to settle their dispute.
The Research – does is produce results?
Research in this field has been pioneered by innovative and creative researchers who have shown that significant gains can be made in social development through LEGO play. In LEGO therapies, building materials are used as therapy for increasing motivation to participate in social skills intervention, and providing a medium through which children with social and communication disadvantages can effectively interact. Studies of long-term outcomes for ASD children participating in LEGO therapies have showed that those children participating in the therapy improved significantly more than the comparison children.
The current research looks at LEGO therapy outcomes by measuring changes in a broader range of social skills and autistic behaviours over a 3 year period compared with outcomes for comparable levels of social skills interventions which did not utilise LEGO materials. A pre/post control group design was used, with the control group made up of a matched sample of children who had similar diagnoses and demographics to the LEGO therapy participants and who were receiving mental health, educational and other therapeutic services of comparable form and intensity.
Studies have assessed the benefits of LEGO play in three measures of social competence – self-initiated social contact, duration of social interaction and reductions in “stereotyped” behaviours. Each of these showed significant gains over the pre-treatment and waiting-list levels.
To learn more about LEGO Therapy Research – Search for “Long-term outcome of social skills intervention based on interactive LEGO® play (by Daniel B. LeGoff & Michael Sherman) and “LEGO® Therapy and the Social Use of Language Programme: An Evaluation of Two Social Skills Interventions for Children with High Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome” (by Gina Owens, Yael Granader, Ayla Humphrey & Simon Baron-Cohen)
Information gathered from: http://asdaid.org/lego-and-asd/lego-therapy