Therapists are using building blocks to help autistic children communicate.
GENERATIONS of children have grown up, exploring their creativity by playing with Lego bricks. These tiny colourful blocks have allowed children and adults to literally build on their imagination.
Therapists believe that these building blocks could also help children with autism break their communication barriers. They are using Lego to help autistic individuals overcome their difficulties in initiating interactions and develop language skills.
Beginning next year, BlokkeTherapy, a therapy programme using Lego, will be available to special needs children in Malaysia. The programme aims to help them learn how to communicate with others, express their feelings and enhance problem-solving skills.
“Autistic children are drawn to things that are predictable and systematic. And that’s exactly what Lego can offer. When these individuals initiate an interaction with Lego, they are attracted to its systems, predictability and colours,” said BlokkeTherapy founder Dr Daniel B LeGoff after his lecture on Lego As A Successful Model For Autism Therapy in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, recently.
The paediatric clinical neuropsychologist pioneered the Lego-based therapy in 1997, developing it as a social development therapy for children with autism.
The Honolulu-based doctor was in town to train therapists from BlokkeLabs, a Lego education provider, and the National Autism Society of Malaysia (Nasom) on BlokkeTherapy.
The programme is targeted at autistic children between five and 11, and aims to help them form natural, self-initiated and sustained connections with peers through a collaborative brick-building process. They will learn to communicate to advance through a reward system mediated by their peers.
“Within six months to a year, parents can notice significant improvement in their autistic children’s social interaction with peers and siblings,” assured Dr LeGoff.
BlokkeTherapy’s six-month pilot programme was launched on Monday. Currently, six therapists from BlokkeLabs and Nasom are assessing its effectiveness on a controlled group of 12 pre-screened children with autism and related conditions.
The programme has been very encourag- ing as participants are showing good progress, said BlokkeLabs’ co-founder Sheahnee Iman Lee.
“So far, these children have been showing signs of communication. Some of them have played with Lego while a handful have never handled the tiny bricks. Some need to improve their motor skills while others need help to identify bricks to work together and communicate as a group,” she explained.
The programme uses a peer-mediated approach, where children must work together to achieve shared goals. In the process, they will understand the importance of social
Dr LeGoff (right) teaching the children how to improve their social skills using Lego blocks as their fathers look on. — LOW LAY PHON/The Star