LEGO® therapy is a social skills intervention where the focus is on developing the child’s interests and strengths. This kind of therapy draws on a child’s natural interest to play and thereby motivate behavioral change. It is used as an effective teaching tool to increase communication skills and social competence. LEGO® therapy aims at certain target skills which are verbal and non-verbal communication, sharing, taking turns, and collaboration.
LEGO® therapy came into the picture when LeGoff, an American psychologist, noticed that the children in his waiting room were playing with LEGO® and engaging in social interaction; these children had never shown any motivation in interacting. He soon began therapy sessions involving the tiny building blocks where children took on specific and interactive roles. The resulting interactions of these roles, LeGoff discovered, promoted skills that were difficult to develop in children with autism. These skills were joint attention, collaboration and sharing, and conflict resolution. Children are provided with a set of rules and the responsibility of solving problems; the adult acts as a facilitator, bringing into focus the problems that occur and encouraging the children to solve them. One can now see how this can develop social competence.
Children with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) tend to engage in repetitive and independent play and at most times do not play with other children. They also show difficulty in social interaction and communication. As a result, these deficits have a negative impact on the child’s emotions and behaviour and in the long run, the child may face challenges in forming relationships later in life. One can then understand that engaging in social interactions is a predictor for quality of life. Thus, it is important to develop their social functioning. So, how does one do this? Play intervention and social skills have been found to be an effective means of engaging with the children as well as developing social skills. This article will focus particularly on LEGO® therapy and how it can help in developing the child’s social skills. It will also investigate its effectiveness and benefits.
This begs the question of how LEGO® therapy is carried out. It involves at least three participants who take on the roles of ‘‘supplier’, ‘engineer’, and ‘builder’. The ‘supplier’ must find and retrieve the building blocks as instructed by the ‘engineer’. The role of the ‘engineer’ is to interpret the instructions and to determine which blocks are needed for each step of the assembly/ project. The ‘builder’, on the other hand, must assemble the blocks according to the instructions of the ‘engineer’. The kind of set up promotes interaction and thus, helps in developing the above-mentioned skills. This group can meet for 90-minute sessions on a weekly basis. It is also important that each member takes turns on being the supplier, builder, and engineer. As one can see, LEGO® therapy takes advantage of children’s stereotyped interests and behaviors to encourage learning of social and play skills. This activity has been shaped to promote interaction and has used the child’s choice of stimulus to improve his/her motivation to engage in social interactions.
Research on LEGO® therapy
One study worth mentioning here is a later study conducted by LeGoff which checked whether the improvements which resulted from the therapy would sustain for a longer period. It also investigated whether these improvements could be generalized to a wider range of skills and social development. The results of the study found that those exposed to therapy had greater improvements in a wide range of social skills. Additionally, there was a reduction in autistic-type behavior. It has brought about an improvement in social adaptation and there is evidence of improved social competence in natural settings.
Another study examines the experiences of a mother implementing LEGO® therapy at home. As the activity requires three participants, it involves other family members as well. According to the study, LEGO® therapy is a non-stigmatizing and child-motivating intervention that has the potential to improve family relationships. The activity is designed in such a way that the participants communicate effectively and be aware of non-verbal cues.
With mothers implementing the activity, mothers can learn more quickly about their child and generalize this to other family situations. Parents involved in the activity find themselves more able to support their child. When it comes to sibling involvement, there is improved sibling intimacy, nurturance, and prosocial behavior in those sibling relationships where these factors are diminished. However, one would like to suggest that one should not be discouraged if the implementation of LEGO® therapy is not smooth; if so, one may require a trained facilitator.
One study reviewed articles and studies that are concerned with LEGO® therapy, with the aim to synthesize their findings. Studies that were reviewed reported at least one improvement in communication and social skills (for example, forming friendships, improved interaction, and so on), behaviours specific to autism, belonging, coping, and reduced independent play. Additionally, such an intervention that targets the child’s interest has been shown to improve behavioral and cognitive development. The study also suggests that there is scope for more research regarding LEGO® therapy.
When one came across LEGO® therapy, one wondered what tiny building blocks could do other than construct houses, ships, etc... These tiny blocks can do so much more. It promotes social interaction, encouraging people to communicate effectively and pay attention to social cues. More importantly, it seems to be quite an effective social skills intervention for those with ASC. As it calls for social participation, it helps one develop social and communication skills and other skills like joint attention, sharing, turn-taking, and collaboration. It does so by taking advantage of the child’s stereotyped interests thereby, motivating them to learn and make behavioral changes. There is also an expanding pool of research, looking into different factors that bring about the positive outcomes of this therapy. It can bring about changes that can be sustained over a long period of time. It has the potential to improve family and sibling relationships of those children with ASC; this is provided it is implemented by the mother. One would also like to point that LEGO® therapy seems flexible and thus, can be used to improve communication skills, family and, peer relationships in general. It helps in developing social competence which is an important life skill a child needs to face challenges later in life.
Andras, M. (2012). The value of LEGO® therapy in promoting social interaction in primary-aged children with autism. Good Autism Practice 13(2), pp. 17-24. Retrieved from https://beainclusive.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Andras-Good-Autism-Practice.pdf
Legoff, D. B. & Sherman, M. (2006). Long-term-outcome of social skills intervention based on interactive LEGO © play. National Austisitc Society, 10 (4), pp. 317-329. DOI: 10.1177/1362361306064403
Legoff, D. B., Krauss, G. W. & Levin, S. A. (2010). LEGO ®- Based Play Therapy for Autistic Spectrum Children. A. A. Drewes & C. E. Schaefer (Eds.). School-Based Play Therapy (2nd ed., pp. 221- 236). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Lindsay, S., Hounsell, K. G., & Cassiani, C. (2017). A scoping review of the role of LEGO ® therapy for improving inclusion and social skills among children and youth with autism. Disability and Health Journal, 10(2), pp. 173–182. doi:10.1016/j.dhjo.2016.10.010
Peckett, H., MacCallum, F., & Knibbs, J. (2016). Maternal experience of Lego Therapy in families with children with autism spectrum conditions: What is the impact on family relationships? Autism, 20(7), pp. 879–887. doi:10.1177/1362361315621054