LEGO® Therapy by Danielle O’Sullivan

LEGO® is an incredibly popular toy with children all over the world. It is also a fantastic learning tool particularly for children with autism who are often motivated by this fun, systematic construction toy. LEGO® therapy is a therapeutic approach for children with autism and related social communication difficulties which utilises their interest in this toy to help them develop social skills.

How does LEGO® therapy work?

A group of 3 children work together to build a LEGO® project.

Each child takes on a different role:

  • Engineer – oversees the design and makes sure it is followed
  • Supplier – finds the bricks requested by the engineer  and gives them to the builder
  • Builder – positions the bricks as instructed by the engineer.

LEGO® therapy groups also have an adult facilitator whose role is to keep the children focused and on-task, help resolve conflicts, encourage positive interactions and prompt the children when needed

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LEGO® Therapy Research Project – Update

You may recall that we were undertaking an MSc research project investigating LEGO® -Based Therapy for supporting language skills. The project is now complete and we would like to share our results!

LEGO® -Based Therapy is an intervention that was originally designed to be used with children with autism to develop social competence skills. Our research project investigated adapting this intervention to be used with children with mild-moderate language impairment.  In our clinical experience, a LEGO® -Based Therapy approach can be used with language impaired children to target a range of functional communication skills including, but not limited to: resolving conflicts, problem solving, negotiation, organising and sequencing ideas, turn taking, communication initiation, formulation of questions, listening and communication repair skills. As an initial investigation our study selected only one particular aspect of functional communication to examine: repairing conversational breakdown through initiating clarification.

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Research News

Lego Therapy MSc Project – Blog update

We are undertaking a Masters level research project at City University London. This project is a novel piece of research which looks at whether LEGO® Therapy can support children with language difficulties in repairing communication when it has broken down. Children with speech and language difficulties frequently experience communication breakdowns both in the classroom and in social settings. This may be that the child has not understood something or that the person they are speaking to has not understood him/her. Children who have a range of strategies to repair communication breakdowns are less likely to experience frustration and more likely to successfully clarify something they have not understood in the classroom.

LEGO® Therapy has historically been used with children on the Autistic Spectrum to develop social interaction skills. However, the nature of this therapy lends itself particularly well to developing a range of other language and communication skills, including developing communication repair strategies.

Check back later to find out the results of our research!

Caitlyn Chandler and Shelley Parkin

Attention and Listening Skills

This month we are thinking about attention and listening skills.

You’ve probably met a child like this. The one who can’t sit at the table at lunchtime and keeps running off to play with toys. The one who wriggles around on the carpet at story time. The one who is so engrossed in making a Lego car that he doesn’t answer when you call his name. Children like this all have something in common: they have difficulties with attention and listening.

When we think of a child with attention difficulties, we often think of that wriggly child who can’t sit still. But there’s a bit more to it than that. Attention skills typically develop through certain stages. A child that is younger than 4 years old will typically have something called single-channelled attention. This means they can only attend to one thing at a time. If you ask them a question when they are doing something else, like playing with a toy, they will not be able to answer! A child that is between 4 and 5 will typically start to show integrated attention. This means they can play a game and listen to someone talking, without needing to look up. Beyond 5 years, children typically demonstrate integrated attention for longer and longer periods.

Why does all this matter? It matters a lot to a child’s speech and language development. If a child’s attention and listening is delayed, they may not tune in to speech as much as a typically developing child. This may mean they miss out on all the input that is so important for speech and language learning.  It also matters a lot to how a child gets on at school. If a child does not have integrated attention, they can’t hear the teacher call them to carpet time when they’re playing a game with friends. They can’t hear the teacher ask them a question when they’re reading a book. Children like this might look as though they’re being ‘naughty’, and not doing what they are told. This is not true. They simply didn’t hear.

So what can we do to help? You can’t teach a child to have integrated attention! But you can support them to make the most of the attention skills that they DO have.

  • If a child is having difficulty with their speech or language, then a referral to speech and language therapy can help figure out whether attention difficulties are at the root of the problem.
  • If you think a child is still at the single channelled stage, you can help them by using gentle touch, calling their name, or moving into their field of vision when you want to talk to them.
  • Keep your instructions simple, and break long instructions down into chunks, e.g. ‘Where are your shoes? OK, great. Now let’s put them on’.
  • Check that the child has heard you and understood, by saying ‘What did I just ask you to do?’
  • If a child finds it difficult to maintain attention for long periods of time, you can help them by giving them a movement break, e.g. ‘We’re going to sit at the table for 5 minutes, then you can get down and jump on the trampoline.’
  • You can also use visuals, such as the timer on your phone, e.g. ‘You can run around for 2 more minutes. When my phone makes a funny noise, it will be time to sit down.’

You may also have heard talk of the term joint attention. This is a bit different! We will talk about joint attention in a later blog, so keep checking in.

Lucy Pollard

Speech and Language Therapist