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Building Language Using LEGO® Bricks

Building Language Using LEGO® Bricks

Dawn Ralph | Jacqui Rochester | Georgina Gomez De La Cuesta



Building Language using LEGO® Bricks is a flexible and powerful intervention tool designed to aid children with severe receptive and expressive language disorders, often related to autism and other special educational needs.

This practical manual equips you for setting up and adapting your own successful sessions. Downloadable resources enable you to chart progress in the following key areas:
- The use of receptive and expressive language
- The use and understanding of challenging concepts
- Joint attention
- Social communication

Help children with complex needs to communicate with this unique tool, derived from the highly effective LEGO®-Based Therapy.

Building Language Using LEGO™ Bricks is a fantastic approach, and the book did not disappoint. The language used throughout is accessible, yet extremely detailed, making it a book for parents and professionals alike. I have been lucky enough to attend the course run by Dawn and Jacqui, and their personalities shone through as I read the book; it's the perfect companion to the training Dawn and Jacqui provide, and is a must have for anyone who is interested in using LEGO™ as a tool to deliver language therapy.
Karen Sullivan, founder of Autism Puzzles
This book is organised, easy to read and gives clear instructions about how to set up and run a session with children interested in LEGO™ and construction. The intervention has been adapted and developed using the technique hands-on with the children, and it shows. Practical guidance and an engaging activity make the intervention do-able!
Gina Davies, Speech and Language Therapist, Autism Specialist
Dawn Ralph gained her Speech Pathology & Therapy degree from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh in 1985 and has worked as a paediatric speech and language therapist ever since. She has worked in a variety of settings from a paediatric brain injury unit to both specialist and mainstream schools. Jacqui Rochester has been working with SEN children for over sixteen years. In 2014 she gained her Bachelor of Philosophy in Special Education: Autism (Children) from the University of Birmingham's Autism Centre for Education and Research. Both Dawn and Jacqui run Building Language using LEGO® Bricks workshops for schools and training for professionals.

It was a pleasure and an honor to read Dawn Ralph and Jacqui Rochester's guidebook for language development using LEGO® materials. The work is an extension and expansion of the LEGO®-based therapy approach that has been previously published by my colleagues and me. That work focused on social development strategies using LEGO®, which necessarily involved an emphasis on effective communication. Ralph and Rochester have taken that emphasis a step further, and have focused in particular on the language-based aspects of the LEGO® therapy process - the receptive and expressive components of functional and social communication that are emphasized by the joint, collaborative LEGO®-building process. They have also shown how the method can be utilized with children with cognitive and language-based disabilities who were not included in the original LEGO®-based therapy trials.
Ralph and Rochester's work is clearly and succinctly written, well-researched, but not mired down in theory or the minutiae of research literature. It is, therefore, a very pragmatic, commonsense, and yet evidence-based methodology, accessible to anyone in the helping professions who has an interest in improving functional and social communication in children with language-based disabilities.
It is a special pleasure for me to read this pragmatic and well-considered manuscript. When I first started doing LEGO®-based therapy groups in the later 1990's, there was very little literature available on effective interventions, and none of my colleagues were aware of LEGO® as a potential therapy tool. It was really only Tony Attwood, and Robert and Lynn Koegel who were supportive of this type of approach - using naturally-reinforcing content and materials, and utilizing peers to help shape social development. Later, I was also encouraged by Fred Volkmar's kind words about my first published study. He said the method showed promise.
In that first paper, I invited other clinicians and researchers to consider utilizing the LEGO® materials, and to try variations of the method I was using, with different populations, etc. Since that time, there have been other publications based on the original method, but this is the first real modification and extension of the LEGO®-based therapy method. So, twelve years later, the manuscript by Ralph and Rochester, does show evidence that the original approach can be modified and generalized, and provides a long-awaited response to my invitation. I will pass along the encouraging words that I received from the venerable Dr. Volkmar: this work of Ralph and Rochester certainly shows promise. I hope it catches on.

Daniel B. LeGoff, paediatric, neuropsychologist, and originator of LEGO®-Based Therapy

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Building Language Using LEGO® Bricks: A Practical Guide by Dawn Ralph and Jacqui Rochester 3
Foreword 9
Acknowledgements 11
Preface 13
A brief description of Building Language Using LEGO® Bricks 14
1. What are Autism and Language Impairment? 15
What is autism? 15
Autism and play 17
What is language impairment? 18
2. Building Language Using LEGO® Bricks and LEGO® Therapy 23
Building Language Using LEGO® Bricks 24
Cognitive abilities 26
Age range 27
Diagnosis 27
Linguistic ability 27
Roles 27
Reinforcers 28
3. Aims 29
Development of joint attention 29
Listening and attention control 30
Receptive and expressive language 32
Development of early concepts 34
Learning to label emotions 36
Problem solving and communication repair 37
Turn taking and patience 38
Range of language functions 38
Bilateral integration and fine motor skills 38
Eye contact 40
4. Why Building Language Using LEGO® Bricks Works 41
Theory of mind 41
Weak central coherence 42
Executive functions 43
Poor ability to jointly attend 44
Theories of word learning 44
5. Starting Off 47
Pairing clients 47
Assessment – establishing a baseline of skills 48
What am I testing? 48
Testing understanding of colour names 50
Testing understanding of prepositions (positional concepts) 51
Testing understanding of shape 55
Testing concepts of measure 56
Testing the number of ICW understood 58
6. Progressing Skills - The Role of the Facilitator 63
Role of the facilitator 64
Prompting 65
Facilitating form of language 76
7. Guidelines for Setting Up and Running Building Language Using LEGO® Bricks Sessions 81
Building Language Using LEGO® Bricks in school 81
Building Language Using LEGO® Bricks at home 87
8. Measuring Outcomes 89
Target-based outcomes 89
Satisfaction-based outcomes 91
9. Examples of Cases 93
John 93
James 102
Using Building Language using LEGO® Bricks with non-verbal or pre-verbal children 112
Conclusion 115
Appendix 1: Assessment Checklist 117
Appendix 2: Model Checklist 127
Appendix 3a: Symbols for Colour 128
Appendix 3b: Symbols for Colour (continued) 129
Appendix 3c: Symbols for Colour (blank template) 130
Appendix 4: Symbols for Shape 131
Appendix 5a: Symbols for Size 132
Appendix 5b: Symbols for Size (continued) 133
Appendix 6a: Symbols for Position 134
Appendix 6b: Symbols for Position (continued) 135
Appendix 7: Sequence of Concepts (form) 136
Appendix 8: Symbols for Questions 137
Appendix 9: Prompts for Repair Strategies 138
Appendix 10: Badges 139
Appendix 11: Tokens 140
Subject Index 147
Author Index 151