Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Article: Using Lego Therapy to Help Aspergers Children with their Social Skills

This article appeared in the UK Times Yesterday

Here's how to build your hopes
Parents of autistic children need not despair. It has been proved that therapies using Lego can be an enormous help

The article doesn't say anything particularly new but reaffirms the fact that when a group of children are collaborating on a project which is of interest to them - and when there are firmly set boundaries of responsibility which enforce the need to communicate, then the children will communicate.

And of course, practice makes perfect.

You could easily adapt the instructions in the article for siblings or very small groups;
One child acted as the “engineer” and described the instructions, another as the “supplier” finding the correct pieces, and the “builder” put the pieces together. After a time, they would swap roles.
I might try this at home - it could stop the fighting over lego between my children.

Computer Games
The article hints a bit but stops short of citing other cases where such interaction would promote communication. Here's a good one I've discovered with my own children - computer games.

In particular, I've found that the "team" (co-op) games where players have to help each other, are much better at fostering communications between children than games where they compete against each other. The best of these types of games are the lego series; Lego Star Wars, Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Batman (all of which are particularly suitable for younger children). There are also good examples in the more "grown up games" like Eragon, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Some Positives
The article goes on to say a few positive things, including one thing I've been saying all the time about the importance of obsessions;
“In the past, it was believed that obsessions got in the way of learning. Now, if a child is preoccupied with a system of learning, like maths, music or Lego, we say they should take it as far as they can, because they might be the passport to a job or a friendship. So we're turning that idea on its head and using the interest or obsession to help the child,” he says.
You really need to be building on the child's strengths and obsessions (special interests) to overcome any weaknesses. Sure, a lot of obsessions seem useless at first;

For example: Star Wars
It's fiction, so what could a child possibly learn from it?

  1. English : Have the child write about Star Wars; eg: "How would Luke have felt when he returned to his homestead?"

  2. Maths: This can be much more than simply "count the spaceships" - in later years, you can adjust a child's work to do trigonometry

  3. Science: More than simply space. You can teach about ecology (what would grow on tatoonie), chemisty, geology and physics.

  4. Art: Drawing spacships, people and landscapes.
There's a lot more you could do but since this is only an example, I'll leave it there.

Am I suggesting that schools change the curriculum for one student? No, of course not. However teachers and parents can suggest to children that they look at things differently - particularly when the child is struggling or disinterested.

To ignore the obsession is to ignore the greatest source of potential in the child.

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