Lego Therapy And Autism

LEGO, with its colourful plastic bricks, is more than just a toy; it’s a cultural phenomenon. Universally adored by both children and adults, these iconic building blocks represent boundless creativity and endless possibilities. As a cornerstone of imaginative play, LEGO has woven itself into the fabric of childhood memories worldwide. However, its impact extends beyond mere entertainment. Beyond the fun and games lies a remarkable therapeutic tool: LEGO therapy. In harnessing the power of these versatile bricks, LEGO therapy has emerged as an innovative approach in supporting individuals, particularly those with a autism diagnosis, fostering social skills, communication, and much more.


One of our generous members, Charlie, who contributed to our resources by donating a portion of his vast Lego collection.

The enduring appeal of LEGO building toys among individuals with autism transcends mere entertainment; it serves as a powerful tool for fostering engagement, predictability, and a sense of mastery. For autistic children and adults, navigating the world can often feel like traversing a labyrinth of uncertainty and unpredictability. In contrast, the structured nature of LEGO play provides a comforting oasis of control and familiarity. This affinity for LEGO has spurred the development of LEGO-based therapy specifically tailored to the needs of individuals on the autism spectrum. Moreover, recent feats such as the Guinness World Record-breaking LEGO Titanic replica, spanning 5 feet in length and constructed from a staggering 56,000 bricks over 700 hours, further underscore the profound connection between autism and LEGO.

The LEGO Group, headquartered in Billund, Denmark, is a renowned Danish toy manufacturing company. Established in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen, it remains a family-owned enterprise, having transitioned from father to son and is presently overseen by Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, the founder’s grandchild. The name ‘LEGO’ stems from the fusion of two Danish words, “leg godt,” translating to “play well.”

In 2021, the LEGO FOUNDATION made headlines with its endorsement of Play Included, a UK-based social enterprise committed to training educators and psychologists in utilizing LEGO play for therapeutic purposes within the acclaimed Brick-by-Brick program. This initiative fosters collaboration, communication, problem-solving, and joyful experiences through collective engagement with LEGO bricks.

Autistic children with often exhibit a strong inclination towards specific activities, immersing themselves in these pursuits with fervor. Therapeutic approaches have long leveraged these passionate interests to facilitate the acquisition of crucial skills such as cooperation, communication, and abstract thinking through play-based interventions.

Studies reveal that LEGO building sets serve as an exceptionally effective resource in autism therapy, offering a dual benefit of skill development and fostering shared interests between autistic individuals and their neurotypical counterparts.

Understanding the Foundation of Play Therapy

Educator Maria Montessori famously stated, “Play is the essence of childhood,” emphasizing its pivotal role in learning. In typical development, children use play as a means to explore and comprehend their surroundings, engaging in various forms such as imaginative play, physical activities, and social interactions.

Through pretend play, children mimic adult roles or characters from media, honing language skills and social behaviors. Organized games teach them cooperation, rule-following, and teamwork towards common objectives.

However, autistic children exhibit distinct play patterns:

  • They often engage in solitary or parallel play.
  • While they may repeat lines or actions from media, they struggle to expand upon them creatively.
  • Collaboration and goal-oriented play pose challenges.

Many autistic children adhere to repetitive routines, finding comfort in familiar activities like singing specific songs or constructing identical structures.

Introducing new activities can cause distress, as familiarity brings a sense of calmness while change induces anxiety. Play therapy aims to address these difficulties by leveraging children’s interests to foster communication, imagination, and social skills.

Rather than discouraging repetitive behaviors, play therapists employ diverse strategies to enrich and diversify their play experiences, aiding autistic children in overcoming their challenges.

The Genesis of LEGO Therapy

LEGO building sets are very popular among by some autistic children due to their predictable, repetitive nature, allowing for independent play. These sets are part of a cohesive toy system that fosters familiarity and ease of use.

Moreover, LEGO sets offer numerous benefits:

  • Develop strong fine motor skills and hand strength
  • Enhance spatial, visual, and analytical abilities
  • Hold intrinsic value globally, transcending mere play to be recognized as both toys and art forms.

Recognising this affinity, clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Daniel LeGoff pioneered LEGO therapy in 2003, aiming to cultivate social skills in a versatile and practical manner, applicable across various environments.

Published in 2014, a book (LEGO®-Based Therapy How to build social competence through LEGO®-based Clubs for children with autism and related conditions) highlighting the efficacy of Dr. LeGoff’s program underscores its positive impact. Today, an array of practitioners and programs centre around LEGO therapy, employing similar techniques to foster skill-building and attainment of play-related objectives in children.

Understanding the Mechanics of LEGO Therapy

The objective of LEGO therapy is to cultivate essential skills that facilitate improved peer interaction, shared experiences, and collaborative abilities among children. Hence, participants who stand to gain from LEGO therapy typically possess a baseline level of verbal communication and the capacity to comprehend and execute both visual and verbal directives.

In its simplest rendition, LEGO therapy entails children functioning within a group framework, assuming specific roles that include:

The Engineer: Holds the blueprint and coordinates with the Supplier to procure the necessary bricks, then guides the Builder in assembling the model according to the instructions.

The Supplier: Maintains stock of Lego bricks and fulfills requests from the Engineer by providing the required materials.

The Builder: Receives the bricks from the Supplier and meticulously follows the Engineer’s instructions to construct the model with precision.

An adult facilitator works with the group as needed to encourage problem-solving, communication, and engagement. In some cases, several therapists work together, using LEGOs to build motor skills, facilitate speech, and enhance social communication.

LEGO therapy offers a versatile platform not only for structured building but also for fostering creativity and teamwork across various activities. Beyond traditional brick-building, it can be extended to encompass imaginative storytelling, engaging dramatic enactments, and innovative problem-solving.

For instance, an adaptation of LEGO therapy involves children collaborating to construct representations of imaginary realms inspired by narrated stories, or jointly crafting vehicles tailored to meet specific challenges or environments.

Moreover, children can embark on collaborative endeavors to engineer intricate LEGO Mindstorms robots, complete with programming. Through these endeavors, youngsters engage in sophisticated teamwork, immersive storytelling, and intricate design processes, further enhancing their collaborative and creative skills.

LEGO Therapy: Does It Work?

LEGO therapy draws from established, safe therapeutic approaches, offering a low-risk, potentially beneficial avenue for skill development and fostering meaningful connections among children with shared interests.

Despite a limited pool of research, predominantly conducted in small, enthusiast-led groups, LEGO therapy shows promise in enhancing inclusion and social skills among children and youth with autism (Lindsay et al., 2017).

It’s important to recognize that no single therapy guarantees success for every autistic child; effectiveness often hinges on group dynamics and the facilitator’s rapport. Some participants may experience skill enhancement, while others may not.

Choosing LEGO therapy entails investing time and money with minimal risk, yet maximizing positive outcomes hinges on several factors:

  • Enjoys LEGO model-building
  • Similar support needs as peers
  • Can follow verbal instructions
  • Exhibits some success in interactive play
  • Adapts ideas without distress
  • Motivated for social connections

Prior to initiating LEGO therapy, engage in a dialogue with the therapist(s) to ascertain their objectives, understand the composition of the group of children, and grasp their therapeutic methodology.

What If My Child Isn’t Into LEGO?

LEGO isn’t magical or inherently special. The therapeutic approach applied to LEGO projects can be adapted to various collaborative endeavors aimed at achieving common goals.

Therapists have utilized diverse activities and interests, catering to autistic children’s preferences. These may include:

  • Thomas the Tank Engine
  • Fantasy games like Dungeons and Dragons
  • Online collaborative platforms such as Minecraft

Constructing therapy groups around these shared interests is feasible, necessitating structured facilitation, preliminary assessments, goal-setting, and ongoing monitoring for progress.

LEGO Therapy Resources

LEGO therapy isn’t universally accessible, but many therapists who engage with groups of autistic children seamlessly integrate LEGO play into their programs. Parents can likewise harness the therapeutic potential of LEGO in their households, collaborating with siblings or other adults as a cohesive team.

For further insight into LEGO therapy, consider reaching out to your school’s occupational or behavioral therapist. Additionally, connecting with members of your local autism support group or delving into one of the following books can provide valuable information:

  • LEGO®-Based Therapy How to Build Social Competence Through LEGO®-based Clubs for Children with Autism and Related Conditions By Simon Baron-Cohen, Georgina Gomez De La Gomez De La Cuesta, Daniel B. LeGoff, GW Krauss, 2014.
  • How LEGO®-Based Therapy for Autism Works Landing on My Planet By Daniel B. LeGoff, 2017.
  • Building Language Using LEGO® Bricks: A Practical Guidebooks By Dawn Ralph, ‎Jacqui Rochester, 2016

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