A therapeutic model that we follow at Minds and Hearts to engage a child on the autism spectrum in therapy early on, is to understand his/her special interest. Developing a session with elements of the special interest or including it as a reward at the end of the session appears to be associated with positive affect, hence better compliance, reduces/alleviates anxiety, and makes it fun as it draws on the child’s strength or knowledge on the topic and sometimes the child may be unaware that therapy is happening.
Although LEGO® for many may be a special interest, I have recently become aware of LEGO®-Based Group Therapy, also known as LEGO ®Club. Invented by Daniel B LeGoff, it is a structured group therapy program that specifically uses LEGO® to facilitate social skills for the children on the autism spectrum. Some of the key features of LEGO®-Based Group Therapy/LEGO® Club are:
- Interest based approach to motivate children on the spectrum to engage in therapy.
- Facilitate and develop social skills in a naturalistic environment.
- Provides an activity based social setting.
- Other interests are incorporated too (Trains, dragons, superheroes by using specific LEGO® material.
- A way to connect to others in the group with similar interests.
- One main adult supervisor with appropriate training and depending on the number of children, additional facilitators may be required.
- The group supervisors focus and encourage positive social interaction.
- Targets Communication (verbal and non-verbal communication), Turn taking, Collaboration or Problem-solving.
- Collaboration includes joint attention, joint accomplishment, and common, shared goals.
- Participants perform one of the specific goals: a supplier of the blocks, a builder to construct a design based on the instructions given, an engineer to provide instructions for the design, and a director to ensure that the team is working together, a helper that the participant identified to help him with the building (could be a sibling).
- Specific rules have been made for each of the participants to follow.
- Group sessions are held once week/75-90 minutes per session
- Number of pieces, length of time, complexity of the task is decided based on the development age of the group members
- There is a 5-Level system for the club: LEGO® Helper, LEGO® Builder, LEGO® Creator, LEGO® Master, and LEGO® Genius.
The information was gathered from Daniel B LeGoff books and an article reviewing the role of LEGO®-Based Therapy in children and youth on the autism spectrum. Please see references below to read more about the therapy program.
Legoff, D. B. (2017). Landing on Planet LEGO® : How LEGO®-Based Therapy Builds Social Skills in Children with Autism and Related Conditions: London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
LeGoff, D. B., Gomez De La Cuesta, G., Krauss, G. W., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2014). LEGO®-Based Therapy How to build social competence through LEGO®-Based Clubs for children with autism and related conditions / Daniel B. LeGoff, Gina Gómez De La Cuesta, GW Krauss, and Simon Baron-Cohen. London Philadelphia: London Philadelphia : Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Lindsay, S., Hounsell, K. G., & Cassiani, C. (2017). A scoping review of the role of LEGO® therapy for improving inclusion and social skills among children and youth with autism. Disability and Health Journal, 10(2), 173-182. doi:10.1016/j.dhjo.2016.10.010