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THE MAGIC OF LEGO® CLUBS: DEVELOPING SOCIAL SKILLS FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM

THE MAGIC OF LEGO® CLUBS: DEVELOPING SOCIAL SKILLS FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM

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LEGO® clubs have emerged as a powerful tool in supporting children with autism, fostering social skills, communication, and collaboration through play. This blog delves into the history, benefits, and practical aspects of setting up your own LEGO® club, guiding you through the process with expert insights and evidence-based practices.

The History of LEGO®-Based Therapy

LEGO®-based therapy was developed by clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Daniel LeGoff in the late 1990s. Dr. LeGoff observed that children with autism often struggled with social interactions but showed significant interest in LEGO® play. Recognizing this potential, he developed a structured group therapy approach where children could build social skills through collaborative LEGO® building activities. The approach quickly gained popularity due to its effectiveness in improving communication, joint attention, and problem-solving skills.

THE MAGIC OF LEGO® CLUBS: DEVELOPING SOCIAL SKILLS FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM

Benefits of LEGO® Clubs

LEGO® clubs offer a myriad of benefits for children with autism, including:

  • Enhanced Communication: The need to negotiate, plan, and execute building projects fosters verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
  • Improved Social Interaction: Working together on LEGO® projects helps children practice turn-taking, sharing, and cooperative play.
  • Increased Self-Esteem: Completing a project provides a sense of accomplishment, boosting confidence and self-esteem.
  • Structured Learning: The predictable and structured nature of LEGO® play provides a safe environment for children to explore social interactions.
THE MAGIC OF LEGO® CLUBS: DEVELOPING SOCIAL SKILLS FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM

A study conducted by Owens et al. (2008), evaluated LEGO therapy and the Social Use of Language Programme (SULP) for children aged 6-11 with high-functioning autism. Over 18 weeks, the LEGO therapy group showed greater improvement in social interaction and a significant decrease in maladaptive behavior compared to the other groups.

Additionally, in a 3-year study conducted by LeGoff & Sherman (2006), children with autism who participated in LEGO therapy showed significantly greater improvement in socialization and social interaction skills compared to those who received other types of therapy.

Setting Up Your Own LEGO® Club

Selecting the Right LEGO® Kits

Choosing the appropriate LEGO® kits is crucial for the success of your LEGO® club. Here are some recommended kits and their developmental benefits:

  • Animal Bingo: This kit promotes visual perception, attention to detail, and turn-taking skills.
  • Community People Set: Ideal for role-playing and understanding social roles, enhancing social understanding and empathy.
  • Build Me “Emotions”: Helps children identify and express emotions, fostering emotional intelligence.
  • Creative Bricks: Encourages creativity, problem-solving, and fine motor skills.

Age Groups and Developmental Stages

When setting up a LEGO® club, consider the age and developmental stages of the children:

  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): Focus on simple, large-brick kits like DUPLO. Emphasize basic social skills like sharing and turn-taking.
  • Early School Age (6-8 years): Introduce more complex sets and collaborative building projects to enhance cooperative play and communication.
  • Older Children (9-12 years): Use intricate kits that require advanced planning and teamwork, fostering higher-level social skills and problem-solving. 

Spice things up with a script and stop-motion animation! I used the Stop Motion Studio app here (free): 

Structuring a Session

A well-structured session is key to a successful LEGO® club. Here’s a suggested structure:

  1. Welcome and Warm-Up (10 minutes): Greet the children, review the rules, and engage in a simple ice-breaker activity.
  2. Building Activity (30-40 minutes): Divide the children into small groups, assigning specific roles (e.g., builder, supplier, and engineer). Encourage collaboration and communication.
  3. Discussion and Sharing (10-15 minutes): Have each group present their project, discuss any challenges faced, and celebrate achievements.
  4. Closing Activity (5 minutes): End with a brief, fun activity like a group photo or a quick game.

Group Sizes, Roles, Duration, and Frequency

  • Group Sizes: Small groups of 3-5 children work best, ensuring each child has a role and opportunities for interaction.
  • Roles: Assign roles such as builder, supplier, and engineer to promote collaboration and ensure active participation.
  • Duration: Sessions should last 45-60 minutes to maintain engagement without overwhelming the children.
  • Frequency: Weekly sessions provide consistency and routine, essential for children with autism.

Additional Tips

  • Parental Involvement: Engage parents by providing updates and encouraging them to practice skills at home.
  • Professional Guidance: If possible, involve a trained therapist to facilitate sessions and provide insights.
  • Flexibility: Be prepared to adapt activities to meet the individual needs of each child.

Final Thoughts

LEGO® clubs offer a unique and effective way to support children with autism, helping them develop essential social skills in a fun and engaging environment. By carefully selecting LEGO® kits, structuring sessions thoughtfully, and fostering a supportive atmosphere, you can create a valuable resource for children and their families. Remember, the joy of building with LEGO® bricks can unlock a world of possibilities for children with autism, one brick at a time.

THE MAGIC OF LEGO® CLUBS: DEVELOPING SOCIAL SKILLS FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM

References

Owens, G., Granader, Y., Humphrey, A., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2008). 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. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(10), 1944-1957.

LeGoff, D. B., & Sherman, M. (2006). Long-term outcome of social skills intervention based on interactive LEGO® play. Autism, 10(4), 317-329.

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