LEGO Foundation teams up with UK social enterprise to support autistic children

The LEGO Foundation has partnered with social enterprise Play Included to strengthen and support its activity clubs for autistic children.

Play Included is a UK-based initiative responsible for Brick-by-Brick, a collaborative programme that supports learning through play. That’s primarily achieved through its Brick Clubs, in which children take responsibility for different stages of the build process: giving the instructions, finding the bricks, or assembling the model.

The clubs are aimed first and foremost at helping neurodivergent children to feel understood and build meaningful friendships, combating potential social isolation and mental health issues, through the lens of familiarity, predictability and consistency that LEGO bricks provide. On a wider level, Play Included’s Brick Clubs are also intended to increase awareness around autism.

“It’s not just about helping children today, but the adults they will become tomorrow,” said LC Groux-Moreau, autistic adult and consultant for the UK National Autistic Society. “Childhood development is a critical determinant of a person’s social and emotional wellbeing. This can in turn impact physical and mental health, as well as academic success and employment opportunities in adulthood.”

The Brick Club concept was born out of Dan LeGoff’s LEGO-based therapy, which the paediatric neuropsychologist originally developed all the way back in 2004. In the years since, research has illustrated how LeGoff’s methodology can have a positive impact on communication, behaviour and emotional wellbeing for autistic children. 

“The work that Play Included has done with the Brick-by-Brick programme is inspirational, and it is a true testament to the LEGO Foundation’s philosophy of learning through play,” said Michelle Ndebele, Play and Health Specialist at the LEGO Foundation.

“Namely that meaningful, iterative, joyful, socially interactive and actively engaging teaching methods help all children to develop essential life skills such as problem solving, creativity, communication, and confidence, through the most powerful, intuitive way they know – play.”

The LEGO Foundation has now joined forces with Play Included to help develop its Brick-by-Brick programme even further, using its vast library of resources and experience to produce tools and frameworks that can facilitate more structured learning through play.

“The Brick-by-Brick programme is an inclusive concept enabling neurotypical children to learn and engage alongside their neurodivergent peers – after all, relationship-building is two-way,” Ndebele continued. “So, we have great ambitions for this concept to secure more inclusive, playful, learning opportunities and we can’t wait to see the programme brought to more children all over the world.”

LEGO Foundation Play Included Brick Club 2

The Foundation is launching multiple studies to examine the ongoing impact of the partnership, and explore whether the learning-through-play concept can extend beyond autism to help kids with other conditions, including ADHD, anxiety and early-life trauma. It will also help Play Included expand the programme’s reach to encompass more cities and countries.

“We’re delighted to partner with the LEGO Foundation and have lots of exciting plans for the next couple of years, such as refreshing the Brick-by-Brick programme and creating a community of practice and new tools to track progress, to name just a few,” said Dr. Gina Gomez de la Cuesta, Founder and Director of Play Included.

“By sharing best practice, stimulating research and offering high quality resources and training, we hope to help as many young people as we can, who might benefit from this fun, engaging and effective programme.”

The first results of the partnership – including new training for teachers and psychologists, resources for Brick Clubs, promotional materials and how-to guides – will be available by the end of the year. The LEGO Foundation will also establish a Brick-by-Brick ‘International Community of Practice’, allowing professionals to come together and share ideas. To find out more, head over to Play Included’s website.

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Chris Wharfe

I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then. You can follow me on Twitter at @brfa_chris.

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