Here at TheWackyWarehouse we champion everything that supports children – well, half of our team are children, so it only makes sense.
We have recently become more involved in LEGO Therapy and after talking to a number of professionals who operate in the LEGO® based Therapy space, we found that there wasn’t a one stop shop to help those looking to get more involved.
We have spent the past few weeks putting together this guide to help anyone and everyone interested in therapy based on LEGO Therapy, from parents and children looking for a local LEGO club through to teachers and consultants looking to offer LEGO as a means of therapy in their local area – we hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: LEGO is a registered trademark of the LEGO Group, which does not endorse, authorize or sponsor this website or the practice of LEGO based therapy.
- 1 What is LEGO® based therapy and who is it for?
- 2 LEGO Therapy Resources
- 3 LEGO Therapy Training
What is LEGO® based therapy and who is it for?
LEGO® based therapy is a social development programme which helps children and young people with autism spectrum disorders and related social communication difficulties, such as Asperger’s Syndrome. The programme is based on the highly structured, systematic and predictable nature of LEGO play which makes it appealing to children with social communication difficulties who are particularly attracted to systems.
Much more than simply playing with LEGO bricks, LEGO therapy includes the presence of a therapist who guides the children and encourages them to address and resolve their problems. Through LEGO therapy, children can learn to communicate with others, express their feelings, change their behaviour, develop problem-solving skills and develop a relationship with the world around them.
Who founded LEGO therapy?
LEGO therapy was pioneered by Dr Dan LeGoff, a Clinical Neuropsychologist in Philadelphia, USA. The idea came to him when he observed that autistic children who were otherwise uninterested and distant really came to life and started socialising with each other when playing with LEGO. After this discovery, LeGoff turned the collaborative building central approach into LEGO therapy and published research on its effectiveness.
How does LEGO therapy work?
LEGO play is a multi-sensory and versatile experience, which means it can be tailored to suit each child’s individual needs. However, most LEGO therapy programmes are very similar and follow the same steps:
- Each child learns a clear set of rules and LEGO building skills.
- They are then introduced to a group of other children, including some who do not have social skill deficits
- Everyone in the group agrees upon a project which is achievable for everyone involved – projects are usually certain structures or buildings to create.
- Each child is assigned a role for the project. Roles are rotated throughout therapy.
- The group works together to build the LEGO structure according to the principles of play therapy.
What are the rules of LEGO therapy?
LEGO therapy rules can be customised according to the abilities and skills of each individual. Common rules include:
- Structures must be built together by the group.
- If you break something, you have to fix it or ask for help to fix it.
- If another group member is using something and you want it, ask for it. Don’t just take it.
- Use quiet indoor voices without shouting.
- Use kind and polite words.
- Keep your hands and your feet to yourself.
- Do not put LEGO bricks in your mouth.
- At the end, tidy everything away and put it back where it came from.
What are the different roles in LEGO therapy?
The different roles in LEGO therapy are:
- Engineer: oversees the design and ensures the instructions are followed.
- Builder: puts the bricks together.
- Supplier: keeps track of which size, shape and colour bricks are needed and passes them to the builder.
- Director: ensures the team is working together and communicating well.
Roles are rotated throughout the LEGO therapy session so that every child gets to try each role – this helps stimulate different aspects within the child.
What is the role of adults in LEGO therapy?
Emotions often run high during LEGO therapy and things can quickly escalate. As well as implementing the principles of play therapy and the rules, adults can intervene and support positive interactions, provide prompts to keep the group on track and suggest compromises to please everyone. If two children are physically fighting, adults are encouraged to mediate and redirect the children to use language, negotiate and compromise to settle their conflict.
What are the outcomes of LEGO therapy?
LEGO therapy results in better communication skills for children with autism and other social communication disorders. This specific type of play therapy also improves children’s abilities to change their behaviour, understand and talk about their feelings, solve problems and learn about the world in which they live, more so than any other play therapy.
In 2004, Dr Dan LeGoff published an outcome study showing significant improvements made by a group of autistic children following 12 weeks of therapy. Each child was starting more conversations with other children and the conversations were lasting longer. These children were also showing less ‘aloofness’ and rigidity than they had done before the therapy. The children who continued with LEGO therapy for an additional 12 weeks improved even further.
LeGoff and Sherman carried out another study in 2006 on the long-term outcomes of children who took part in LEGO therapy compared to the outcomes of children involved in non-LEGO play therapy. Those who took part in LEGO therapy improved more greatly in terms of social competency and were able to adapt to social situations much better.
Play therapy Vs LEGO therapy?
Following the principles of play therapy is what really separates LEGO therapy from simply playing with LEGO.
- Setting aside a dedicated time and space for the LEGO therapy on a regular basis.
- Encouraging non-verbal communication as much as possible.
- Promoting declarative language over questions and commands.
- Challenging and joining in at each step of the activity.
- Supporting collaboration and pretending.
Not all principles of play therapy have to be included in every LEGO therapy session. For a child who has never attended a LEGO therapy session before, this can all be too much to take on. It’s possible to start with just one or two principles of play therapy and add extra ones during each future therapy session.
LEGO Therapy Resources
The below information is mainly for teachers and carers who are looking to start a LEGO Therapy club or looking to incorporate the LEGO Therapy principles into their classrooms. We have listed and provided a number of LEGO Therapy resources to help you plan your lessons.
LEGO therapy instructions
How to Host a LEGO Club
Below is an example of a LEGO Therapy club session which might help you envisage how to set out a class, we have provided information and instructions to help you start your own LEGO club. Although it might be a bit overwhelming at first, once you’ve got all your materials and have put a plan together, LEGO therapy sessions practically run themselves! Despite there being minimal prep and mostly easy work for adults supervising, the LEGO therapy sessions are extremely rewarding for children and have a huge positive impact.
- Collect Supplies
Whether you’re planning on just having a couple of children or a whole classroom worth attending your LEGO therapy session, you need to have a lot of LEGO bricks. Buying full-price brand new LEGO sets from toy shops can work out extremely expensive, but there are plenty of other more cost-effective ways you can get your hands on loads of building bricks.Get everyone you know willing to lend a hand (including parents and/or carers of the children who are going to be attending the session) to scout around charity shops, markets and car boot sales looking for cheap LEGO bricks. You can also get people to ask friends, family and neighbours if they’ve got any old LEGO bricks boxed up in their lofts. Most people will be happy to have the extra space and will be glad to know the toys they bought years ago will be played with once again.
Must-have LEGO therapy supplies:
– Lots of large lego baseplates: most children prefer to build on baseplates rather than building free-form
– Lots of figures: some children spend a lot of their building time searching and rounding up the figures
– Storage containers: with hundreds or even thousands of LEGO bricks floating around, you need somewhere to store them all
- Decide who will be attending
The ages of the children who will be allowed to attend your LEGO therapy sessions will really depend on how much experience you have working with children. Don’t be worried about accepting everyone to start off with. If you’re only confident working with children of a certain age, begin with those. Then, when everything is running smoothly, you can open the sessions up to children of other ages.
One thing that is worth considering is how much better children develop when they’re in large groups with other children of different ages. Not only is this beneficial for the children, but it’s also beneficial for parents and carers who may have children of different ages who all want to take part in LEGO therapy.
- Set a schedule
Having a reliable schedule is incredibly important. Children with autism and other related social communication difficulties respond very well to consistency and will be much more excited about LEGO therapy if they know exactly when it will take place every week, fortnight or month.
The frequency and the length of the sessions is entirely up to you. The key is to keep it consistent. Usually, sessions are held once each month on the same day of the week and last one hour following a similar schedule.
- Find a location with suitable facilities
The anticipated size of your LEGO therapy session group will largely affect the size of the room you need. Schools, libraries and churches are good places to start searching for rooms, as the people who run them are normally happy to do what they can to help children.
After you’ve chosen your location, you need to make sure it’s got everything you’ll need to host a session. A few large tables or many small ones and lots of chairs are all you need, really. Children will be working together a lot, so it’s important each table can seat at least four people. Sometimes it’s useful to have the rules, instructions and job roles in a visible space, so if there’s somewhere to hang a corkboard, chalkboard or whiteboard, even better.
- Create a session format
To help the children focus, it’s a good idea to have a set theme for each session. You can plan these themes in advance or ask the children to pick one amongst themselves. Once a theme has been decided, the children then build a project based on the theme. Some children won’t like the theme and will want to go with their own idea. Embrace creativity!
Here are a few theme ideas: robots, outer space, vehicles, seasons, food, history, flags, nature, seaside, forest and cities.
To keep on track, it’s worth writing up a schedule of how each session will run, here is an example:
4pm-4:05pm Children and parents/carers arrive, select a baseplate if they want and choose a seat. The building theme is revealed.
4:05pm-4:50pm The children build while the supervising adult (or adults) wanders around the room, observing groups and helping or advising when necessary.
4:50pm-4:55pm Each child is encouraged to talk about what they’ve built.
4.55pm-5pm Everyone helps clean up
LEGO therapy printable resources
A great resource for starting a LEGO therapy club is to have printable cards to help show the children exactly what to build, this helps stimulate their creativity, gives them a clear understanding of the task at hand and also helps the group ‘engineer’. Below are some of the most helpful LEGO therapy printable sheets that I have found for teachers.
- Building Brick Rules, Rewards and Jobs: A really great resource for starting your own LEGO Therapy session, containing; Building Brick Describing game, emotions pack, Lettering for displays, LEGO describing cards, Positional Language aids, LEGO Therapy Rules & rewards and jobs charts.
- Free printable Building Challenge Cards: 8 complete challenge cards with simple project ideas, plus 8 blank challenge cards to create your own projects
- LEGO Therapy Model Instructions Book: an instruction and assessment booklet designed for SEN pupils to create a simple turtle
- LEGO Therapy Job Title Badges: three colourful title badges for the engineer, builder and supplier
- LEGO-Based Therapy Resources: printable info to support the running of a LEGO therapy session, including lanyard role cards, job role posters, brick names poster, positional language poster and monitoring form.
LEGO Therapy Books
There are 2 books we would recommend if you need anymore information after Reading our resource.
- LEGO-Based Therapy is the book written by the pioneer of LEGO therapy, LEGO-Based Therapy is about how to build social competence in children with autism and other related conditions with LEGO Clubs. This book is a comprehensive guide with instructions on how to set up LEGO therapy groups to boost social skills through group LEGO building. It covers the approach comprehensively and provides clear advice on strategies for successfully turning children from LEGO helpers to LEGO geniuses.
- The next book is Lego Therapy for communication to help children with special needs and it features some interesting exercises for you to add into your class or club if you have children with specific needs.
- This last article explains how to use LEGO in speech therapy and shows a number of different ways different ways you can use LEGO to promote communication, problem solving and describing skills, it’s a great read and contains some great examples.
LEGO Therapy Training
Whilst training isn’t essential if you want to start a LEGO therapy club, it certainly has its benefits and can help you establish some good contacts in the industry as well as mixing with fellow professionals to help you come up with new ideas for your club.
Below are a selection of LEGO therapy training courses to help you find the one closest to you, they are run by a mix of private individuals and local authorities. If you would like to add your training to the below list, please contact us.
Upcoming Training Courses
1. Building Skills: LEGO-Based Therapy Training
Building skills is a training course run by Dr Elinor Brett in various locations across the country.
This course covers:
- Theory and principles of LEGO therapy
- Practical application of LEGO therapy in schools
- How to set up and run LEGO therapy sessions in schools
- Monitoring the progress of group members
- Generalisation of social skills
- Intervention fidelity
Training times, dates and locations:
- 10am-3.45pm on September 15th 2016 at the University of Oxford, Dorfman Centre
- 10am-3.45pm on October 6th 2016 at the Brighton Holiday Inn, Brighton Seafront
Each place costs £200 and includes the one-day course, a resource CD and lunch. You can book your place without putting down a deposit, but payment is due 28 days before the course date. Reserve your place here.
2. Bricks for Autism LEGO-Based Therapy Training
Bricks for autism is a course delivered by Gina Gomez de la Cuesta who carried out her PhD evaluating Lego®based therapy at the Autism Research Centre and has learnt about the approach from its pioneer, Dr. Dan LeGoff.
This course covers:
Note: This course is for professionals who work (or aspire to work) in the field of autism. The training is suitable for speech and language therapists, education specialists and psychologists who want to learn about LEGO therapy and how they can start their own LEGO therapy sessions. This course is unsuitable for parents who want to host LEGO therapy sessions at home.
Training times, dates and locations:
Places for the 2016 training courses have already sold out, but places for the 2017 courses are available. All training will take place at the Jesus Collage in Cambridge on the following dates:
- February 4th 2017
- April 22nd 2017
- June 10th 2017
- October 14th 2017
- December 9th 2017
Each place costs £250. You can get a place for the discounted rate of £210 if you book before January 1st 2017 or the discounted rate of £180 if you’re a student. For more information, fill out the online contact form.
3. Lancashire Professional Development Service
This course covers:
- Supporting the inclusion of pupils with an ASD in mainstream settings
- Discussing interventions and supporting the development of social interaction and communication
- Providing support for delegates planning the LEGO therapy intervention in schools
- Providing support for writing comic strip conversations and social stories
Training times, dates and locations:
- 1.30pm-4.30pm on October 18th 2016 at the Woodlands Conference Centre in Chorley
- 1.30pm-4.30pm on January 30th 2017 at the Woodlands Conference Centre in Chorley
- 1.30pm-4.30pm on July 4th 2017 at the City Learning Centre, Unity Collage in Towneley Park, Burnley
This training course is suitable for head teachers, teachers, NQTs and teaching assistants involved in KS1, KS2 and KS3 pupils. Each place costs £85. Reserve your place here.
4. Communicating Kids LEGO Therapy Training
This course covers:
- Supporting language development in the classroom and nursery setting.
- Using visual cues and therapy strategies.
- Intensive interaction.
- Supporting the early development of language.
- Supporting autistic children in mainstream schools.
- Supporting children with hearing impairments in mainstream schools.
- Boosting communication skills amongst children.
Training times, dates and locations:
This training course is suitable for parents, school staff and nursery staff. Additional training modules are available, as are bespoke training packages designed specifically for your child’s needs. Fill out this contact form for more information.