LEGO® Therapy Resources
LEGO®-based therapies have become fairly common for two primary issues over the last fifteen to twenty years. These colorful plastic bricks are used for a variety of things beyond the usual build-cool-stuff-and-then destroy it that we all enjoyed as kids. Do you remember the look on Grandma’s face when the LEGO® dragon obliterated that castle with a fireball…all over the living room?
Well, if so, you also remember the finite motor functions in your hands as we pieced that dragon together, especially with those small joint pieces, attaching the wings…
And you might also recall having to work together to get it built correctly. How we discussed how to assemble the darned thing, as Grandma would say. It wasn’t the easiest task, but it was worth it.
Well, those skills don’t come easily to every child. Kids on the autism spectrum have issues with social interaction and communication (similarly, children who are deaf or blind cannot communicate as easily due to physical impairment – this is good practice for them, as well). Then there are the kids who, for varying reasons, lack fine motor function, or even gross (body-wide) function. Playing with LEGO®s can help with both of these problems. Further, they can be used for educational purposes, and kids genuinely love to play and create with them.
Below, I will include a few links and discuss some important LEGO® therapy resources. And this link is a good place to start, with a nice, detailed overview of what LEGO® therapy is and how it can, generally, help a lot of kids (though it focuses on children with autism spectrum disorders). Still, check the resources below, as well.
LEGO® Bases: The Foundation of Every Project
Every building needs a foundation. And there are a lot of options for this element of your required materials, of which there are only two: a set of LEGO® bricks and a place to build them. The former is fairly obvious, and the only things to decide there are which set and how many sets. With the latter, however, there are many options and many price points.
The lowest price point, of course, is free. Room can always be made on the floor or at a table. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, but there are limitations. Free-standing constructions cannot be easily moved or displayed. And then there’s always the chance that, during a restroom break, some furry monster will decide that the construction doesn’t belong on the table.
All of those problems can be solved with the purchase of some foundational element. There are tables pre-built with LEGO® surfaces and portable slabs that can be picked up, moved around, and generally hold everything together. Either option would be preferable to free-building. If the latter is chosen, however, consider getting your LEGO® base plate from Slab Dream Lab. Their LEGO® slabs are thicker and sturdier, so they won’t bend. This was actually the exact problem that Slab Dream Lab’s founder encountered that led to a DIY project and, now, a successful and growing company. Most LEGO® sheets (such as the ones linked) are thin, and they bend when picked up (which means you have exactly four-point-two seconds to get your toes out of the way). A LEGO® compatible base plate from Slab Dream Lab won’t do so. Further, they come in three different sizes, a host of colors and patterns, and can be snapped together to make a larger building surface.
Then, a major advantage of using these LEGO® bases over a pre-built table is that they can be used in pretty much any situation – in laps on the couch or on long road-trips; they can be mounted to make LEGO® walls; and if your child has a particularly awesome construction, a sturdy LEGO® base allows the construction to be moved away from the build area and put on display. Preferably in front of the television where it simply must be admired.
Did You Know?: The LEGO® Group also produces specialized LEGO® kits geared towards specific areas of interest, such as kits designed to help kids learn elements of robotics and coding, starting them early on skills that they will need to succeed in the job markets of the future. Check out LEGO®’s Education initiatives for more details and options.
Using LEGO® Slabs For Good
Exactly how you utilize a LEGO® slab as a LEGO® therapy resource depends on the specific needs of your child. The first link, above, for example, shows how LEGO® slabs can be placed to allow a child to fully exercise his or her full-body movements, helping with back and core muscles, balance, arm coordination, and more. For working on more finite movements as a physical therapy focus, it might be better to use a LEGO® compatible baseplate attached to a table – possibly with velcro strips, which would hold the LEGO® slab reliably in place, but would also allow for it to be detached for building on the go (whatever it takes when you have a four-hour drive, right?) or to have the capability, again, to put awesome creations on display.
For children who are more in need of social and communication therapies, such as those on the autism spectrum, the play area is going to need to be set up for multiple children. The typically-accepted model uses three ‘roles’, and the LEGO® base would need to be closest to the child in the role of builder, so don’t feel too concerned if the play area cannot be set up equilaterally. The most important thing to consider is that all children can see the building area and all other children. Check the above link for a more thorough rundown.
The Most Important LEGO® Therapy Resources: Trained Professionals and Parental Involvement
Of course, the most important resource – for any form of therapy – is a trained clinician and doctor. That education and experience can be leveraged to ensure that the most effective therapies are being used for any given situation. A doctor may rule that LEGO® therapy is a helpful addition to other therapeutic techniques, or possibly that it’s the best path forward. Before leaping headlong into anything, it is always advisable to consult your child’s doctor.
Parents, meanwhile, are not useless in this process. Nobody knows a child better than his or her parents, and any relevant knowledge of a child’s ticks, habits, and preferences may prove helpful in establishing an effective course of treatment. And, for the child, having a parent present and involved in some fashion is reassuring and comforting – an anxious child may not progress much, even with something as fun as LEGO®s being the focal point of the treatment.
Finally, if your child does end up in a LEGO® therapy regimen (in fact, if you are any parent of any child who owns any LEGO®s), please take one last piece of advice: take the opportunity to teach them how to clean up after themselves. Just like Grandma did. Your feet will thank you.