The novel use of LEGO®-based therapy to develop communicative competence in children who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems

Suzanne Gough, Nicola Dutton

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentationResearchpeer-review

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Introduction: The achievement of effective overall communication skills can be complex and challenging for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems (Light and McNaughton, 2014). LEGO®-based therapy is primarily been used with people on the autistic spectrum, as a social intervention to target communication and interaction skills (LeGoff, 2004). This presentation outlines the novel use of LEGO®-based therapy that has been adapted to enhance the development of communicative competence of children aged 7-11 who use AAC systems. Methods: This adapted LEGO®-based therapy approach is based on the principles of Baron Cohen’s Empathising-Systemising model (Baron-Cohen et al, 2005) and social constructivism. Children take turns to play different roles (a supplier, an engineer, and a builder). They are provided with a LEGO® set or allowed to freestyle, in order to build a model as a team. The role of the adult facilitator is to prompt the resolution of any social or communication difficulties that may arise. The gamification approach provides a balance between the development of social interaction and gaming (Mosley and Whitton, 2014) as the children collaboratively create a LEGO® model as a team. Outcomes: The initial findings from a series of case studies highlighted the potential benefits of using a gamification approach featuring adapted LEGO®-based therapy, to develop single or multiple communication competences in young children using AAC devices. The case studies provide insights into the development of multiple (linguistic, operational, social, strategic) communication competencies coupled with the influence of psychosocial factors and environmental support. These case studies highlighted the additional development of social skills, (including joint attention, problem solving, negotiation and both verbal and non-verbal communication), which enhance overall communicative competence. The project highlighted the importance of recognising and responding to linguistic, operational, social and strategic challenges faced by children using AAC devices during therapeutic intervention. Discussion, conclusions and recommendations: The initial findings illustrated in the case studies indicates the successful adaption of LeGoff’s (2004) original LEGO®-based therapy, as a therapeutic intervention to enhance single and multiple communicative competences of young AAC users. The use of adapted LEGO®-based therapy with AAC users is not without challenges, but these are not insurmountable. Practical and theoretical recommendations for the integration of adapted LEGO®-based therapy in educational and healthcare settings will be shared. References: Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Lawson, J., Griffin, R., Ashwin, C., Billington, J. and Chakrabarti, B. (2005) Empathizing and systemizing in autism spectrum conditions. In: Volkmar, F., Klin, A. and Paul, R. (Eds). Handbook of autism and pervasive development disorders. 3rd edition. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. LeGoff, D. B. (2004). ‘Use of Lego© as a therapeutic medium for improving social competence.’ Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34(5) pp. 557-571. Light, J. C. and McNaughton, D. (2014). ‘Communicative competence for individuals who require Augmentative and Alternative Communication: A New Definition for a New Era of Communication?’ Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 30(1) pp. 1-18. Mosley, A. and Whitton, N. (Eds.) (2014) New Traditional Games for Learning: A Case Book. London: Routledge.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
EventThe 9th Annual Conference of Association for Simulated Practice in Healthcare - Southport Theatre and Convention Centre, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Nov 201815 Nov 2018
Conference number: 9th


ConferenceThe 9th Annual Conference of Association for Simulated Practice in Healthcare
Abbreviated titleASPiH
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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