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Using LEGOs to Build Social Skills and Language

Speech and Language Staff
May 22, 2018

Social skills play a role in all stages of life from family relationships and friendships to romantic relationships and career success. Social skills are challenges for many children with autism. Social skills that pose a challenge for some children with autism include turn taking, social flexibility, and problem solving. In recent research studies, researchers have shown that LEGO play therapy can help children with autism increase their initiation of social contact with peers and decrease aloofness and rigidity, both in the short-term and in the long-term.

Play benefits of LEGOs

LEGOs are a fantastic toy; they build imagination, visual skills, problem solving, perseverance, and communication. LEGOs are often a preferred toy for children. They are widely accessible and appeal to a broad age-range. Also, LEGOs are flexible; there are so many things you can do with LEGOs.

Short-term therapeutic benefits of LEGOs

In 2004, researcher Daniel LeGoff was concerned that the traditional social skills therapies were not engaging or motivating to children with autism and did not generalize across settings. In his research, he looked at building social skills through naturalistic play. In the study, children with autism participated in 90-minute sessions on a weekly basis that facilitated collaborative LEGO building activities and other projects tailored to the skill level of participants. Results showed short term significant gains in social development resulting from LEGO-based interactive play groups.

Long-term therapeutic benefits of LEGOs

In 2006, researchers conducted a three-year longitudinal study comparing LEGO-based social skills therapy with non-LEGO-based social skills therapy. Each research group contained between 57 and 60 children with autism. Both groups received similar levels of speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and similar hours of one-on-one support from a paraprofessional. Both groups demonstrated gains in adaptive behavior and communication skills but the LEGO-based therapy group made significantly more gains than the non-LEGO-based therapy group.

Practical application

LEGOs can be a great way of helping children with autism connect socially with other children. Playing with LEGOs is fun and can be beneficial for social development.

Resources

LeGoff, D.B. (2004). Use of LEGO as a therapeutic medium for improving social competence. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34(5), 557-571. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-004-2550-0

LeGoff, D.B. & Sherman, M. (2006). Long-term outcome of social skills intervention based on interactive LEGO play. Autism, 10(4), 317-329. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361306064403

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CSLOT Staff

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