Un­block­ing path­ways

Ther­a­pists are us­ing build­ing blocks to help autis­tic chil­dren com­mu­ni­cate.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Family - By SHEELA CHAN­DRAN star2@thes­tar.com.my

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.