The Paignton branch of Sainsbury’s is supporting Torbay’s Autism-friendly schools Project by helping local teaching staff to harness the therapeutic power of LEGO and create a truly Autism friendly future.
By donating starter packs of the colourful interlocking plastic toy bricks and heavily subsidising the cost of others, the supermarket branch has helped the project equip 27 primary, secondary and special schools across the Bay with the building blocks to set up their own regular LEGO based therapy groups.
Teachers and teaching assistants were first invited to attend a workshop which focused on how LEGO, the world’s most powerful brand, could help those on the autistic spectrum navigate human interaction, succeed in relationships and co-operate with others, before taking what they had learnt into their own learning communities.
Funded by The Torbay Schools’ Forum and The Autism-friendly schools project, the LEGO therapy workshop was delivered by Leonie VanWijk, Speech and Language therapist, Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and SENDCo Cathy Macpherson, Autism Champion Hannah Tucker and Communication Lead Tracey Astin from White Rock Primary School in Paignton.
“Everyone loves LEGO and research shows that structured group activities with the toy bricks can have a really positive impact on children who need support with social interaction, building relationships and developing their speech and language. It works especially well with children with autism, significantly enhancing their social and communication skills,” explains Autism-Friendly Schools Co-ordinator Mary Bruton who is helping teachers roll out LEGO therapy throughout the Bay to deliver joy and great results. “With our help, teachers are gaining a greater understanding of the unique set of challenges children on the autistic spectrum face and are delivering the targeted support which students need to flourish and thrive. The LEGO therapy is so successful because it’s great fun and children enjoy working with each other,” she adds.
“We have seen a huge improvement in children’s communication in many different contexts, not just in their Lego session. The children are interacting with their peers during collaborative play and learning. We have had positive feedback from parents who have commented on the difference that they are seeing at home. Lego Therapy has a buzz of excitement around it in our school. All children that participate in the sessions take great pride in their achievements and share them with their peers as well as parents.” says Tracey Astin, Communication and Interaction Lead at White Rock Primary School. In return for attending the workshop, 27 schools received a LEGO Creator 3-in-1 kit and supporting material to get started and apply the fundamentals of the LEGO therapy research in their own setting.
“Sainbury’s likes to support its local community and we were delighted to be able to help White Rock Primary school and its autism provision,” says Emma Scott, department manager, Sainsbury’s Paignton on a recent visit there.
“Seeing the children enjoying the LEGO has been very rewarding. It’s been lovely to see the donation in place and being used,” added Ann Houghton, PR Ambassador for Sainsbury’s Paignton.
If anyone has any spare LEGO sets that they no longer use and would like to donate them to Torbay’s Autism friendly schools project, please contact Mary Bruton at Brixham College on 01803 858271 or e-mail: MBruton@brixhamcollege.co.uk.Follow