The LEGO Foundation has detailed its support of Play Included C.I.C., a UK-based social enterprise dedicated to training teachers and psychologists to use LEGO play for therapeutic purposes.
The campaign has been launched as part of the already successful Brick-by-Brick programme and is based on the idea that all children should have equal opportunities to develop the skills needed to thrive in the 21st century. It has been launched ahead of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd this year.
Together, the LEGO Foundation and Play Included recognise and talents of autistic children and look to support them through the partnership. Together, they will strengthen and expand the Brick-by-Brick learning through play concept, reaching more children aged five to 18 years who can benefit from it.
The Brick-by-Brick programme brings children together through a shared interest in LEGO play in group settings that children call Brick Club. At Brick Club, they work together to build specific LEGO models or design and build their own freestyle LEGO creations in small teams.
The group will take turns mastering different roles of the building process until the model is complete, with Engineers giving instructions, Suppliers finding the relevant bricks, and Builders putting the pieces together.
The programme can help make interactions more meaningful and engaging through clear roles, rules and activities. By building and playing together the children collaborate, communicate, negotiate and problem-solve, developing friendships and creating social opportunities along the way in a safe and fun environment, guided by adults who have undergone comprehensive training in playful learning facilitation.
“At Play Included, we have been working with the evidence-based methodology behind the Brick-by-Brick programme since 2004,” said Dr. Gina Gomez de la Cuesta, founder and director of Play Included.
“There are many reasons why children may struggle with social relationships. We want to help more neurodivergent children around the world to make friends and feel a sense of belonging and connection. We’re delighted to partner with the LEGO Foundation and have lots of exciting plans for the next couple of years, such as refreshing the Brick-by-Brick programme and creating a community of practice and new tools to track progress, to name just a few.
“By sharing best practice, stimulating research and offering high quality resources and training, we hope to help as many young people as we can, who might benefit from this fun, engaging and effective programme.”
The programme will be strengthened by placing more emphasis on playful learning content and facilitation. Studies will also explore how learning through play can positively impact the lives of children with other conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety, or those that have faced adverse life experiences.
Together with members of the autism community and academic partners, new research will be initiated, focusing on the impact the refreshed concept is having on children who take part in the programme. Finally, a key ambition of the partnership is to extend the programme to more countries whilst increasing its reach in existing countries.
“It’s not just about helping children today but the adults they will become tomorrow,”said LC Groux-Moreau, Autistic adult, Consultant for the UK National Autistic Society.
“Childhood development is a critical determinant of a person’s social and emotional wellbeing. This can in turn impact physical and mental health, as well as academic success and employment opportunities in adulthood.”
National studies show that between 50 and 90 per cent of young autistic adults are unemployed or severely underemployed, with many experiencing mental health issues. In the UK, 80 per cent of autistic adults experience mental health issues at some point in life, against 25 per cent of the general population.
The Brick-by-Brick programme builds upon the original idea of using LEGO play with autistic children to support their social emotional development, as many often shine due to their attention to detail and skill with LEGO building.
This methodology is known as LEGO Based Therapy and was developed in 2004 by Dr. Dan LeGoff, a US-based paediatric neuropsychologist, and now Ambassador of Play Included. Research into LEGO Based Therapy has shown positive outcomes for social interaction, communication, behaviour and emotional wellbeing for children and young people on the autism spectrum.
“The work that Play Included has done with the Brick-by-Brick programme is inspirational, and it is a true testament to the LEGO Foundation’s philosophy of “Learning-through-Play”,” said Michelle Ndebele, Play and Health specialist at the LEGO Foundation.
“Namely that meaningful, iterative, joyful, socially interactive and actively engaging teaching methods help all children to develop essential life skills such as problem solving, creativity, communication, and confidence; through the most powerful, intuitive way they know – play.
“The Brick-by-Brick programme is also an inclusive concept enabling neurotypical children to learn and engage alongside their neurodivergent peers, after all, relationship building is two-way. So, we have great ambitions for this concept to secure more inclusive, playful, learning opportunities and we can’t wait to see the programme brought to more children all over the world.”
Refreshed training, how-to-guides, new Brick Club resources and professional materials will be ready by the end of 2021. In addition, there will be a renewed and fully formalized Brick-by-Brick International Community of Practice to allow professionals to connect and share ideas.
Finally, the first in a series of homebased play activities for families, to support communication, connection and relationship building, have already been developed together with autistic advisors. To download these activities, learn how your child can take part in Brick Club or to find out more about Play Included and their work with the LEGO Foundation, please visit https://playincluded.com.
Professionals interested in being trained in the Brick-by-Brick programme can sign up here for the courses launching end of 2021.