LEGO® has been a fun part of childhood for decades, but the last 15 years have seen the bright, colourful bricks emerge as a therapy tool. Here’s what you need to know about LEGO® Club, including what it involves and how it can help children with social and communication difficulties develop these vital skills.
What is LEGO® Club?
LEGO® Club or sometimes knows as LEGO® Therapy, is a play-based approach to encouraging the development of communication and social skills, using a child’s natural interest in LEGO®. During LEGO® Club, children work in small groups to build LEGO® models under the guidance of qualified therapists. Children are often specifically grouped and matched based on compatibility of age, developmental level, diagnosis and so on with a consideration to the dynamics of the group.
The children are given specific jobs in the building task and work together to complete their goal of a finished model. They are:
- Engineer – reads the instructions and gives directions to the others
- Parts supplier –sorts through and finds the right bricks for the builder
- Builder – puts the bricks together according to the directions.
LEGO® Therapy has four levels of achievement with specific goals and challenges. Each level builds upon the skills achieved in the previous levels.
Sessions are facilitated by therapist(s) with an understanding of working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or developmental or social skills difficulties to help support skills such as sharing, turn-taking, collaboration, conflict resolution, and verbal and non-verbal communication.
Each session starts with informal greetings and a reminder of the rules, and ends with some free LEGO® play time for further developing relationships, creativity and play skills.
Who is LEGO® Club for?
LEGO® Therapy was originally developed for children and adolescents diagnosed with ASD.
However, it can be helpful for young people aged 5-16 with other communication and/or social difficulties such as social phobia, or mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
The benefits of LEGO® Therapy
Some of the skills worked on during LEGO® Club include:
- Collaboration – children work as a group to achieve a common goal
- Joint problem solving, sharing and turn-taking – taking turns in different roles, dividing up the tasks and working on the build together
- Maintaining attention – children need to remain focused on the task to build the models
- Verbal and non-verbal communication – using language and non-verbal skills (such as eye contact) to express ideas and feelings
- Conflict resolution – working through differences for a shared aim
- Creativity – in coming up with a group name, building the models and free playtime
- Fine motor skills – for manipulating the LEGO® blocks
- Concepts – children get to learn about colours, numbers, categories, describing and more.
Research evidence suggests that for children with ASD, LEGO® therapy may help with skills such as building friendships, improved social interactions and greater social competence.
Studies have also indicated improvements in ASD-specific behaviours, belonging, family relationships, coping, and reductions in playing alone.
Research into LEGO® Therapy is continuing, and more is needed to prove its effectiveness.
Why LEGO® Club?
LEGO® Therapy was first developed in 2004 by US paediatric neuropsychologist Dr Daniel LeGoff. It came about when Dr LeGooff noticed two of his clients with ASD, who had previously shown little motivation to interact, having positive exchanges while playing with LEGO® in his waiting area.
From this observation, Dr LeGoff developed the role-based LEGO intervention to encourage interaction and help children foster crucial skills such as sharing, collaboration, conflict resolution, and verbal and non-verbal communication.
While the therapy was originally aimed only at children with ASD, it has also been found to benefit children with other communication and social developmental issues.
Growing Early Minds runs LEGO® Club during the school holiday period. To view our latest programs visit our School Holiday Programs page.
LeGoff, D.B., de la Cuesta, G.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. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.