Lego and Autism - Fun Educational Activities

In the last residential autism home I worked in building with Lego became a very frequent occurrence, of the seven autistic guys living there four were Lego crazy and the remaining three couldn’t help but get stuck in once they’d started.

Building with Lego is not just a fun way to pass the time but is also considered to be one of the best educational toys or activities available on the market. Lego is timeless and ageless, basic in its nature but complex in its many and varied applications, as they say about Lego, if you can imagine it, you can build it.

The three categories that define a great educational toy are:

Imagination – A great educational toy should promote the use of imagination.

Suitability – A great educational toy should be suitable for use by its target market.

Interaction – A great educational toy should promote interaction, both with the toy itself; and with others around the player.

Lego as an educational toy easily complies with all three of these categories and then some:

Imagination – The limits of what can be built with Lego are virtually limitless, by stacking the small coloured blocks together the user’s imagination is brought to life. You can build a castle, an elephant, a race car, a robot, a rocket or anything else you desire. Whilst problems with imagination is considered to be one of the autism ‘triad of impairments’ building with Lego is the perfect activity for encouraging and promoting the use of imagination, one of the autistic guys with which I previously worked although unwilling to build objects of an immediately recognisable structure by stacking would spend hours stacking the Lego blocks using a system of order that only he understood, but by doing so was able to produce the most elaborate and complex Lego city-scapes you could possibly imagine.

Suitability – There are very few people on this planet that Lego would not be suitable for, at a guess I would suggest that Lego is not suitable for very small children and those who frequently put things in their mouths. But as an educational toy for those on the autistic spectrum, as well as for any child (or adult) you will have to search long and hard to find an activity more suitable than Lego.

Interaction – Building with Lego within the autism residential home in which I worked was one of the main activities that brought all of us together, residents, visiting parents and carers alike, coffee would be made, biscuits would be brought out, and the Lego building would begin. Lego in addition to promoting imagination and hand eye coordination skills is an excellent promoter of group interaction, as a group we would either all join in to construct some megalithic structure of awesome proportions or we would build with Lego individually and take great delight in encouraging each other and finally showing off our completed models to each other. And through this extremely enjoyable and beneficial group activity of building with Lego we also tackled some of the other areas that can be an issue with those on the autistic spectrum, such as difficulties related to forming bonds and friendships, working co-operatively, empathy and social uses of language.

Autism and Interactive Lego Play

Another group activity or game using Lego that can be used to help promote group work and cooperation within autistic individuals involves working in groups of three (this is also an activity that myself and colleagues were required to participate in at a work ‘team building’ day at another job I had) one person becomes the engineer and their job is to describe the instructions of what to build and how, the second person becomes the supplier and their job is to find all of the correct pieces as described by the engineer, and the third persons job is the builder, whose job it is to construct the object using the pieces given by the supplier and as described by the engineer.