What is LEGO®-based therapy?
LEGO®-based therapy is a social development programme for young people with autism spectrum disorders or related social communication difficulties. It was originally developed by Dr. Dan LeGoff, a Paediatric Neuropsychologist in the USA. He noticed that otherwise uncommunicative children came together and started to talk when LEGO® bricks were around.
Young people work together to build LEGO® models and through this have the opportunity to develop social skills such as turn taking, collaboration and social communication.
LEGO®-based therapy can be used individually or in groups. Natural opportunities for developing social competence are facilitated by the therapist.
Key to this approach is how engaging and enjoyable it is for the participants! Building LEGO® collaboratively is great fun, and young people develop social skills while enjoying themselves.
Click on the videos to hear Gina and Dan LeGoff explaining LEGO®-based therapy.
What happens in LEGO®-based therapy sessions?
LEGO®-based therapy sessions are really flexible. The main aim is to encourage children to collaborate with each other. This means the type of activity you engage in is less important than the adult facilitating the collaborative play between the young people.
Initially, children can be assigned different roles to build a kit following the instructions. Whilst everyone can see the picture, each child has a different job to do:-
The Engineer: describes the instructions
The Supplier: finds the pieces
The Builder: puts the pieces together
Children have to talk to each other and interact to get the model built. You can get the children to take it in turns to do the different jobs, so everyone gets a turn within the model.
Moving on, children can design and build their own creations together ("freestyle" building), or make stop-action movies, make stories and so on.
In developing training courses in LEGO®-based therapy, I've come across several common misconceptions about the approach.
1) Only one child can see the picture of the instructions.
No! Actually, everyone is allowed to see the picture, to enable more joint attention and collaboration and helping each other. Having said that, many speech and language therapists have adapted the approach so that only one child gets to see the instructions, like a barrier game. This has anecdotally helped children to improve their speech and language, particularly positional words. But it's hard, and you need more visual supports. The goals of therapy are different.
2) Children need to stick to their role for the whole model.
No, it's definitely best to get children to switch roles frequently so they all get a go at building and don't get bored.
3) You can only do LEGO®-based therapy with 3 children.
Actually you can do it with any number, and in fact there are more chances for social interaction, the more children there are!
Do you want to learn more?
Face-to-face training is the best way to learn more about LEGO®-based therapy.