What is Lego® based Therapy?
Let me start with saying that there is perhaps no simpler toy than a single and humble Lego® brick. This genius invention inspires millions of children and adults across the world.
I love Lego®! Who doesn’t? Right?! In my career as the Lego® – based Therapy Facilitator, I had only 2 children that didn’t like playing with Lego®, but they were converted by me through their strong interests in Minecraft Game and superheroes!
This extremely engaging therapy was coincidentally discovered by Dr. Daniel LeGoff and I’ll not bore you with all the history, but I would like to say how grateful I am for this discovery. If you would like to learn about the origins of Lego® based Therapy then reading the Lego® based Therapy Book by Dr. Daniel LeGoff, Georgina Gomez De La Cuesta, GW Krauss, and Simon Baron-Cohen – it’s a MUST READ – literacy position, especially when you are planning this awesome play therapy in your setting.
Of course, over the years other people, professionals such as speech and language therapists, psychologists, or teachers, etc. wrote other fantastic books about the use of Lego® – based Therapy and as I’m in favour of the eclectic and holistic way of working with children. I suggest studying them all if you would like to incorporate the full potential of this simple idea.
Lego® – based Therapy is a great tool when we work with special needs children, autism in particular but let me tell you that this approach benefits typically developed children and should be run in each school. This is at least my personal dream as I saw how effective it is when you helping and supporting children’s individual needs in the area of communication, language, social skills as well as in shaping emotional and behavioural responses. Over the years, I’ve helped many different children some of them with autism, learning difficulties but also EAL children and typically developed but lacking social skills, self-esteem skills or experiencing high anxiety or expressing challenging behaviour.
To deliver properly, Lego® – based Therapy should be introduced across the whole setting through the whole school In-House or Online training. This way senior leadership team ensures the consistency across the setting, so adults understand and follows the same rules which contribute to children feeling secure and safe. This also will give the setting extreme flexibility in delivering this approach so they don’t have to worry about staff absences or extra child that needs additional support (more about that inside my, fingers crossed, new self-published book which is about incorporating Lego® – based Therapy into school, rules, standards, all nitty-gritty of it. If you would like to be notified when the book is ready or if you would like to contribute by asking questions please feel free to subscribe to my email list or join my Facebook Group – All about Lego based Therapy.)
A Simple way of describing the Lego® – based Therapy would be to say that this is the collaborative social program where Lego® bricks are in the centre of it. Lego® – based Therapy is a positive, structured, child-centred and evidence-based approach that should be delivered in the graduated way. Depending on your children’s needs and your own facilitator experience, you can organise groups of 3, 4 or 5 as well as you can work in pairs or one-to-one. There are certain rules about this but this is something that you can learn during the training.
What the Lego® - based Therapy session looks like?
There is so many things that you and your children can do during the therapy sessions but for the purpose of this blog let me say that there are four different levels of delivering Lego® – based Therapy where children gradually are introduced to more complicated activities and through those activities they being taught deficit skills.
You will play different board games, build collaborative sets, build freestyle building projects, create slow motion movies, incorporate art, cooking, shopping, computer skills, planning, etc. When children will build, they will do it as a team but with the jobs allocated. Depending on the number of children in a group, you will have to use different jobs.
Classic way of organising your groups is to place children in a group of three so you will have The Builder, The Supplier and The Engineer. If you have bigger or smaller groups then you have to make changes accordingly: for example, introduce other jobs (eg. The Inspector), etc.
Why I think Lego® - based Therapy is the best approach when teaching social communication skills.
There are several different reasons but the most important one is that you don’t have to work hard to engage children (and trust me this is very important one) as they are naturally motivated by the building process.
From my experience, 98% of children that I worked with loved playing with bricks and were more likely to focus, follow the rules, try new things, or problem solve with they friends.
Also, if you are the facilitator then teaching skills through this therapy, is a pure pleasure, as you are using a natural way of learning – through play. However, there is a set of necessary skills that you have to learn to be able to run your groups effectively. Knowledge on how to assess, target, plan, deliver and evaluate is necessary to be able to deliver child-centred and evidence-based interventions.
How does Lego® - based Therapy works?
Lego® – based therapy is about far more than putting bricks together. On the surface, you’ll see children building different sets but while the building activity is the engaging part for children, it’s everything else that matters in terms of therapy.
The experience affords plenty of opportunities to socialise and communicate, which is part of the reason why this intervention is so successful.
Format and Flexibility
Lego® – based therapy should be delivered over a period of at least 12 weeks. There are 4 different levels to the therapy and children work together as a team. They experiment, practise and master different skills and tasks, and they learn to accept change.
A typical session will involve a group of three children and it will last for 60 minutes, once a week for at least 12 weeks. There are three job roles: engineer, supplier and builder. The engineer oversees building instructions (i.e. gives directions to both supplier and the builder). The supplier oversees bricks (locates them and passes them to the builder). The builder puts the bricks together (following the engineer’s directions). More jobs can be designed and allocated if the group is bigger.
This is one of the more typical ways to deliver LBTH, but the programme is extremely flexible. It can be delivered one-to-one, to pairs of children, to bigger groups or to a whole class. Likewise, the timing and frequency of the therapy can be adapted to suit individual needs; it can vary from 10 minutes every day (for example, when teaching communication or language) to 90 minutes, once a week, when working with children who need more time to process information and respond.
Regardless of the format, this intervention will encourage children to communicate with each other (verbally and non-verbally). They will pay collective attention to a project, and they will learn how to allocate job roles and how to share/rotate them.
Therapy ideas - what can you improve through Lego® based Therapy?
The therapy can be applied and adapted to more than 200 separate skills. The following are just a few examples:
Emotional and behavioural responses
Fine motor skills
1. Pre-Building skills:
Matching object to picture
Linking bricks together
Communicate pieces required for a build
Able to build simple L1 instruction project, etc.
2. Building skills
Able to take- turns
Share the space and resources
Understand and rotate job roles
Able to lead on a familiar game
Able to help others, etc.
3. Language skills
WH words, etc.
4. Social skills
Asking for help
5. Fine, motor skills
Follow the instruction
Trace around bricks
Make Stamp marks with bricks, etc.
6. Emotional and behavioural responses
Problem solving skills
Crucially, Lego® – based therapy takes a holistic approach. It is a useful tool for many different therapists across many different settings: schools, community groups, NHS organisations, charities and more.
However, it must be delivered by a trained Lego-based Therapy Facilitator; somebody who:
Has experience of working with children with SEND/autism
Understands the importance of a person-centred and evidence-based approach
Knows how to teach, model, practise, and shape children’s emotional and behavioural responses
Knows how to differentiate, adapt, and generalise skills.