Claire Brodie and Vicky Mather, Specialist Teachers in East Sussex, discuss a Lego-based therapy project piloted in their school, which aimed to support pupils’ social communication skills.
Author: Claire Brodie, Vicky Mather
Using Lego therapy with autistic pupils
- Engineers use the Lego instructions and ask the Supplier for the specific pieces of Lego needed
- Suppliers gives the Builder the pieces
- Builders follow the building instructions from the Engineer in order to construct the model.
- a settling-in activity (a song or dance)
- a game to develop Lego specific language
- a Lego therapy building session and free play.
- games to explicitly develop the understanding of prepositional concepts such as ‘in front’, ‘behind’, ‘on top of’ which the children needed to use as Engineers and Builders
- opportunities to develop and agree a shared language e.g. is it a 'slope', a 'slide' or a 'slanting flat bit'?
- visual prompt cards to help with asking for and describing Lego pieces – colour, thickness etc.
- to provide motivation 'Lego tokens' were given when skills such turn taking, good listening, good use of words and seeking clarification were observed
- Significant development of listening skills, turn taking, joint attention, resilience, patience, perseverance and problem solving
- The KS2 children began to develop their own systems based on the concept of turntaking, creating lists of music and games that each child wanted to play.
- The children in both key stages began to spontaneously greet each other on arrival and showed a greater awareness of social expectations.
- The children developed a team approach to problem solving, using mainly the strategy of turn taking.
- An increase in the development of language associated with describing Lego pieces and instructing others how to use them when building models.
- The children were incredibly motivated to understand and use language they initially found challenging, such as describing a Lego piece to someone else, and giving instructions. One child who had previously been working in 1:1 language sessions on a prepositional concept mastered the same target in one Lego Therapy session .
- Improvements were observed in the length of spoken sentences and the grammatical structures of sentences used.
- increased self-esteem in majority of children
- improvements in the flexibility of language used - if a child was an Engineer and the Builder was struggling to understand their instruction, the Engineer on many occasions used other vocabulary to give an alternative instruction.
- behaviour that indicated an increased awareness of the feelings of others - for example reassuring an upset child, explaining very clearly and gently that he would soon get a turn as a Builder.
- Lego is a motivating tool and building as a team provides an immediate shared focus of attention
- the building of a model as a team provides the experience of the power of positive communication: the Engineer sees the Builder receive the correct Lego pieces and construct part of the model as a direct and immediate consequence of his/her language used
- the naturalistic setting with facilitation from adults rather than direct teaching, combined with the consistent and predictable format of the Lego build section, provides a relaxed, safe and secure environment in which language can develop
- Level 1- 'Lego Builder'. Be able to do the jobs of Lego builder, Supplier and Engineer as well as build a small Lego set on their own
- Level 2 – 'Lego Creator'. Be able to design a Lego creation, finding the Lego pieces needed for it and make the creation
- Level 3 – 'Director of the Lego Club'. Be able to share ideas with other children about Lego models and help solve other children's' Lego problems.