LINKAGE BLOG LEGO®-Based Therapy at Linkage

In celebration of International LEGO® Day 2021 we’re sharing how we use LEGO® at Linkage to support young people and adults with learning difficulties and disabilities to become more independent and have more choice and control over their own lives.

In 2017, Linkage’s speech and language therapist and a Linkage College lecturer started to explore the benefits that LEGO®-based therapy could have on the young people we support, particularly those with social communication difficulties.

Our speech and language therapist Anna Billet explains:

“Communication problems directly affect people’s self-esteem. If you cannot get your message across then you cannot influence your own environment or assert your personality in any situation. Being able to communicate is so important for independence. LEGO®-based therapy uses a person’s love of LEGO® play, as well as their strengths and interests, to develop the speech and language and social skills that are vital for communicating effectively.”

HOW LEGO®-BASED THERAPY WORKS

In LEGO®-based therapy sessions, individuals work together in small groups to build a LEGO® model following instructions. Each person is assigned a role. There is usually:

  • an engineer, who has the instructions (pictorial)
  • a supplier, who has the bricks
  • a builder, who builds the model
  • a foreman or director, who makes sure everyone works as a team.

The engineer has to tell the supplier which bricks are needed and has to tell the builder where to place each brick. Each person takes turns playing the different roles, and together they build the model.

This way of working encourages individuals to use verbal and nonverbal communication skills, take turns, share, and use problem-solving skills when they are not understood.

Engineer, supplier and builder at Linkage College’s Toynton campus

HOW IT STARTED AT LINKAGE

Anna heard about LEGO®-based therapy through the Clinical Excellence Network. At the time it was used for supporting children but Anna felt it could make a real difference to young people and adults with learning disabilities.

Together, Anna and college lecturer Tim Keller, piloted the therapy with a small group of Linkage College learners as part of a national trial in conjunction with Cambridge University. They found the approach was a great way to reach learners who might not ordinarily engage. By turning a fun and imaginative pastime into an exciting, challenging and structured session, learners were enhancing their communication and social skills.  In addition, they also saw maths improvements due to the shape recognition and numeracy skills needed to identify and place the Lego pieces.  The work and achievements in the sessions were used to complete units of learners’ English accreditations, at all different levels.

Learning different ways to communicate

HOW WE ARE NOW USING LEGO®-BASED THERAPY

Since 2017, LEGO®-based therapy at Linkage has gone from strength to strength. We now use the therapy across our care, education and day services, as well as in the community.

For the past two years it has been a core part of the Personal and Social Development (PSD) curriculum at Linkage College. In addition, learners at our Weelsby campus who experience high levels of anxiety and have aspirations to undertake a work experience placement, are given the opportunity work with the Speech and Language (SALT) team to help put together the kits. This provides a low-pressure introduction to work experience.

As part of our work in the community, the Linkage Outreach Project offers LEGO®-based therapy to local groups and schools at no cost. Many schools have benefited and praised the impact it has had on their pupils.

This year, we’re delivering a new LEGO®-based therapy project to our care houses via our Adult Skills service. LEGO® bricks are being distributed to the houses for the clients to design their own kits. They’ll test the kits within their own households before sending them to another Linkage house. Using video chat, the original creators will take on the role of the engineer, while the recipients of kits will act as the suppliers and builders. This is a wonderful example of collaborative working between our SALT, Adult Skills and our Care services.

Pupils enjoying LEGO®-based therapy at St. Hugh’s School in Woodhall Spa

AN EXAMPLE OF THE POWER OF LEGO®-BASED THERAPY

The importance of the skills developed through this type of therapy cannot be underestimated. It can be life-changing. Anna has worked with one young lady who has cerebral palsy and struggles physically to do some things for herself. The ability to communicate her wants and needs to other people is going to be key for her independence and happiness as she moves into adulthood. LEGO®-based therapy is helping her develop the communication skills she needs in a fun, relaxed way.

Anna says:

“LEGO®-based therapy has given learners and clients who have little confidence in communicating a reason to do so in a safe and structured situation, which is rule-based enough for them to feel in control of. I have witnessed individuals – who are reluctant communicators due to speech sound difficulties – try and repair communication breakdowns, and be so proud of themselves for helping to complete the models correctly. I have seen learners who are reluctant to communicate with their peers work as a group, smiling and making eye contact with others who they would not usually interact with.”

We love using LEGO® to increase the independence of people with learning difficulties of all ages. Happy #InternationalLegoDay.

Happy people learn