WeLoveBricks has been supporting Hannah Coles, Specialist Speech & Language Therapist, in delivering LEGO therapy training workshops to SLTs and teachers from specialist schools. Here Hannah explains how LEGO® therapy can help children with social difficulties improve their social competence and reinforce good behaviour.
by Hannah Coles
What is LEGO® Therapy?
LEGO® therapy has been proven to be an effective way for children with social difficulties associated with Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Anxiety, Depression or Adjustment Disorders to improve and practice their social interaction and communication skills. Improvements in social competence enable students to sustain lasting friendships and reach their highest potential.
LEGO® therapy was developed more than 15 years ago by Daniel B. LeGoff, Clinical Neuropsychologist, who observed that individuals with autism and other neurobehavioral disorders were naturally attracted to LEGO® when presented with a room full of toys. Using LEGO® in a therapeutic and structured way was fun and seemed to naturally reinforce appropriate social behaviour.
How does LEGO® Therapy work?
Students come together each week in developmentally staged groups from ages 5-17 years. During the sessions they focus on collaborative LEGO® building projects to prompt interaction among the children and help them come up with their own solutions. Trained adult facilitators divide up the tasks within each group so that each student has a specific, clearly defined yet interactive role to perform. Students are required to work well together to achieve the end goal – the final LEGO® model!
The different roles
Students work in groups of three, each with a distinct role. They are usually required to keep to their assigned roles for the duration of a session, but take it in turns to play the different roles from one session to the next.
- The Architect holds the building instructions, and is responsible for letting the others know which bricks are required (supplier) and how to put them together (builder).
- The Supplier holds the LEGO® bricks necessary to assemble the LEGO® model, and is responsible for supplying the builder with the correct pieces and at the correct time.
- The Builder is responsible for taking the individual pieces from the supplier, and putting the pieces together, according to the instructions given by the architect, to create the model.
The team works together to assemble the LEGO® project: joint focus, sharing, problem-solving, close collaboration and communication amongst the students naturally reinforces social contact and good behaviour.
During LEGO® therapy sessions, social conventions can be directly instructed or prompted, based on the needs of the students. For example, if two students are physically fighting over a LEGO® brick, the adult can redirect the peers to use language, negotiation, and compromise to settle their dispute. Emphasis is placed on promoting positive social behaviour.
Research studies have found LEGO® therapy to be an effective means of developing “verbal and non-verbal communication, joint attention and task focus, collaborative problem-solving, sharing and turn-taking” (LeGoff and Sherman, 2006).
In a 2008 study, children who participated in LEGO® therapy demonstrated increased learning and generalization of social skills and reduction of behavioral concerns in comparison to a control group who did not receive intervention (Owens, Granader, and Humphrey).
WeLoveBricks: a ready-made training resource
At WeLoveBricks, it’s our firm belief that LEGO® is more than just a great toy, it’s also a ready-made training resource, ideal for those practicing LEGO therapy. Our boxes of LEGO® sets are rented by speech and language therapists, childcarers, families with children with autism, and by schools. We give our members access to a huge variety of different sets, and the flexibility to play at their own pace, without time restrictions. So, if you’re using LEGO as a training resource and don’t need to keep it, why buy it if you can rent it instead from WeLoveBricks?
We are grateful to Child Development Expert and research Psychologist Dr Maryhan Baker for endorsing WeLoveBricks. Here she explains the powerful role that LEGO® can play in supporting children’s learning, promoting creativity and boosting self-confidence.
by Dr. Maryhan Baker
At my parenting seminars I am often asked about how much time school-aged children should have to play each day. The common issue seems to be afterschool activities and homework leave very little time for anything else. My answer is always the same…
I believe play is the single most important activity for children to engage in, each and every day, for at least one hour. The research evidence is overwhelming in documenting the power of play for children’s emotional wellbeing, social development and academic achievement.
With so many electronic and battery powered gadgetry on the market it can be hard to find toys which children find engaging yet stimulate creativity, promote intellectual and physical development more than good old fashioned LEGO®.
Here are my top three reasons why LEGO® should be in your child’s toy collection:
Promotes Fine Motor Skills
LEGO® bricks come in a vast range of shapes and sizes, which smaller hands need learn how to assemble and take apart. These small twists and turns of their hands, fingers, and arms promote coordination and dexterity which children need for handwriting, crafts, and independent dressing.
Through their manipulation of LEGO® bricks children learn about applying differential pressure; some bricks need small amounts of pressure when building, whilst others require a great deal. The benefits of this hands-on trial and error learning is far more valuable than anything we can say as parents to teach our children about applying the right amount of pencil pressure as they write.
Play is a child’s work and their way of trying out new skills, whilst perfecting others. Providing a box of random pieces of LEGO and unstructured time is essential to ignite their imagination and develop their creativity. These different sized pieces of LEGO® are so exciting because they can become a pirate ship, a space rocket, a magical kingdom or the entrance to another world.
Through imaginative play children lose themselves in their fantasies. An anxious child loses all inhibitions when they are slaying dragons, teaching their pupils, caring for poorly animals, or saving the universe with their super powers.
Provides an opportunity to try new skills without fear of failure
When children play they are constantly learning new skills, which can then be generalised to other areas of their life. Playing with LEGO provides an understanding of spatial awareness, promotes a sense of creativity, and teaches mathematical concepts of symmetry, shape and geometry.
Children learn so much more through LEGO® play because there is no fear of failure, LEGO® creations fall down when you stack them too high, not all our creations quite work out as we planned, but we can always start again.
The possibilities for learning with LEGO® are endless!
To learn more about Dr. Maryhan Baker and her work, visit www.drmaryhanbaker.co.uk.