A couple of months ago, a friend shared a Facebook link for Lego Based Therapy by LeGoff, Gomez de la Cuesta, Krauss and Baron-Cohen, which describes how to use cooperative Lego-building to help teach social and communication skills to youth who are on the Autism spectrum. Over the past year or so, I had been having discussions with co-workers about trying different treatment approaches to help boys in our Residential Treatment services and Transitions Therapeutic School who are on the spectrum or who have similar challenges. After purchasing and reading the book, I was totally on board to bring this to our boys. It also fits with our latest initiative of introducing more activities to the weekly activity schedules.
After sharing the information with others in the Residential program and having more staff express a strong interest, we decided to move forward. My idea of having a group once a week for about six to eight youth quickly grew to having three groups a week for about six youth per group.
There were some challenges to overcome, namely finding enough Legos. Not having bought large amounts of Legos before, I had no idea how expensive it could be. Between some donations from staff members and purchases, we currently have approximately 30,000 Lego pieces, which sounds like a huge amount, but that only fills six, five-gallon containers.
Lego Based Therapy involves youth taking turns giving directions to each other on how to build a particular Lego construction. First one is the builder, then the other trades responsibilities and the builder becomes the one giving directions. They do this for 30 minutes, hopefully doing two full builds, then they get free time to unleash those creative ideas!
Over the course of several weeks, their ability to give directions and their patience have significantly increased. So has their language skill, such as describing the size of a Lego piece, where to put the piece, such as “on top of” or “stack” “parallel to” “overlap by one” etc. Sure, we have had a few issues with boys who are struggling with social skills getting frustrated because someone is not giving good enough directions, or the person building is not understanding what directions are being given. But, hey, that’s expected of youth in a residential program!
We are now several weeks into the new group, and it has been a great success. Overall the boys are doing great and many more youth are expressing an interest in joining. This activity is providing a fun, high interest activity, with the sneaky addition of increasing social and communication skills … WIN WIN!!
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