To mark World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd, the Lego Foundation announced a partnership with Play Included to support autistic children.
Play Included is a UK-based social enterprise dedicated to training teachers and psychologists to use Lego play for therapeutic purposes as part of the successful Brick-by-Brick programme. The partnership is based on a shared belief that all children should have equal opportunities in life to develop the broad set of skills needed to thrive in the 21st century, such as social communication skills. The Lego Foundation and Play Included recognise and value the unique talents of autistic children and want to help support them through the partnership. Together, they will strengthen and expand the Brick-by-Brick learning through play concept, reaching more children aged 5-18 years who can benefit from it.
The Brick-by-Brick programme brings children together through a shared interest in Lego play in group settings. At Brick Club, children work together to build specific Lego models or design and build their own freestyle Lego creations in small teams. Since autistic children may need additional support with social communication, the programme can help make interactions more meaningful and engaging through clear roles, rules and activities. By building and playing together the children collaborate, communicate, negotiate and problem-solve, developing friendships and creating social opportunities along the way in a safe and fun environment, guided by adults who have undergone comprehensive training in playful learning facilitation.
“At Play Included, we have been working with the evidence-based methodology behind the Brick-by-Brick programme since 2004” says Dr. Gina Gomez de la Cuesta, founder and director of Play Included. “There are many reasons why children may struggle with social relationships. We want to help more neurodivergent children around the world to make friends and feel a sense of belonging and connection. We’re delighted to partner with the Lego Foundation and have lots of exciting plans for the next couple of years.”
By leveraging the Foundation’s evidence-based tools and frameworks, and creating activities for the home, the partnership will see the Brick-by-Brick programme strengthened with more emphasis placed on playful learning content and facilitation. Studies will also be carried out to explore how this learning-through-play concept can positively impact the lives of children with other conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety or those who have faced adverse early life experiences. Together with members of the autism community and academic partners, new research will be initiated, focusing on the impact the refreshed concept is having on children who take part in the programme. Finally, a key ambition of the partnership is to extend the programme to more countries whilst increasing its reach in existing countries.
“It’s not just about helping children today but the adults they will become tomorrow”, commented LC Groux-Moreau, 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.”
Michelle Ndebele, Play and Health specialist at the Lego Foundation, added: “The Brick-by-Brick programme is also an inclusive concept enabling neurotypical children to learn and engage alongside their neurodivergent peers, after all, relationship building is two-way. 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.”
Professionals interested in being trained in the Brick-by-Brick programme can sign up here for the courses launching end of 2021.