Since Lego came to Canada in the early 1960s, it has become one of the most popular toys for youngsters.
And while stepping on the building blocks can cause a great deal of pain, working together to build Lego structures and creations can be extremely beneficial for socializing children.
To help kids with communication disorders such as autism and ADHD, Kenora Rainy River Family and Child Services (KRRCFS) received $6,000 from the Moffat Fund to train 35 of their local staff in the Lego Social Skills Facilitator Course.
“To have 35 trained facilitators means the possibility of 35 Lego social skills groups across the district so it's very significant,” noted Becky Andrusco of KRRFCS.
“Even if we have four-five children in each group . . . we will be able to target a lot of the population within the district.”
The Lego Social Skills Groups is for children ages six-12 and the groups will pop up at both the public and Catholic school boards as well as the local KRRCFS building after the training occurs.
“The training itself helps facilitators manage group behavioural issues,” Andrusco explained.
“They learn how to problem solve around conflict resolution . . . with creative therapeutic self-regulation strategies.”
“It looks at developing social opportunities and the training itself will help the facilitators understand the nature of social abilities and disabilities,” she added.
The children who are participants of the Lego Social Skills groups work together to assemble Lego systems.
The kids are assigned roles and have to work in a cooperative fashion to build their Lego structure or object efficiently.
The Lego Social Skills groups is evidence based and there has been significant research done that supports the efficacy of the program.
And while the Lego groups are geared towards children with autism, Andrusco noted other target populations can benefit as well.
“The Lego group process itself helps children develop planning skills, time management skills, and it encourages them to continue to stay motivated,” she explained.
“We target transitioning skills from one part of the play to the other part, which teaches leadership skills and it empowers children to improve participant engagement,” Andrusco added.
Through the group, kids learn how to follow social rules, make eye contact, share, take turns, communicate verbally and non-verbally, negotiate, compromise, express feelings, engage in self initiated social contact, and collaborative work.
There are a few defined goals for social communications within the Lego groups, Andrusco noted.
The first one is to improve social attention to situations and people, which can really benefit children with autism who face those kinds of barriers.
Another goal is focused on encouraging participants to gather information while considering social cues and connecting their prior knowledge to interpret what's happening within the group.
As well, getting the participants to problem solve and respond based on personal social goals is an aim of the Lego Social Skills group.
Andrusco said the idea to apply stemmed from their agency seeing a growing number of children with an autism diagnosis who have issues with socialization.
“We were looking for a fund and an innovative way to target the specific population,” she explained.
KRRCFS is hoping to target as many children as possible around the district following the facilitator training.
The training is tentatively set for Oct. 21 and 22, with plans for the clubs to popup shortly after.
Anyone who would like to learn more can contact Andrusco at 274-7787.