Parents already know the benefits of LEGO play but most people are unaware of the powerful benefits it has for children with ASD.
One of the key aims of ASD Aid is to raise awareness about the ground breaking research in play Therapy to help ASD kids learn to communicate.
ASD Aid aims to provide sustainable access for disadvantaged children to LEGO Play Therapy.
The LEGO® System
The LEGO® System of bricks and other elements is a highly structured, predictable and systematic construction toy. It is therefore likely that children with ASD will be motivated by tasks involving this toy, due to the fact that individuals with the condition are particularly attracted to systems. LEGO system based interactive play groups provide a potentially promising approach to improving social skills in children, especially those with ASD.
LEGO system play therapy is not simply gathering children together and providing them with LEGO bricks.
LEGO System Therapy takes advantage of the inherently rewarding nature of LEGO activities for many children, with ASD. The approach uses a number of important elements;
- 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 analyzed 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.
LEGO Therapy falls within the broad class of “Play Therapy” within ASD research. Play Therapy refers to a large number of treatment methods, all applying the therapeutic benefits of play. Play therapy differs from regular play in that the therapist helps children to address and resolve their own problems. Play therapy builds on the natural way that children learn about themselves and their relationships in the world around them.
Through play therapy, children learn to communicate with others, express feelings, modify behaviour, develop problem-solving skills, and learn a variety of ways of relating to others.
Play provides a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows expression of thoughts and feelings appropriate to their development.
Ground breaking 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.For more academic articles on Autism Spectrum Disorder we recommend the Research Autism and the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 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)