The LEGO® brand is one of the most beloved toy brands for kids, parents and even adults without kids (just ask the AFOL – Adult Fans of LEGO) all over the world, and has a special place in the lives of many children who have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The linear, colorful qualities of the toy itself, combined with the methodical process of following an instruction manual to assemble the pieces together has been found to be appealing to children who have autism, or other similar neurological disorders. As a result, socially developed therapy programs which include the use of LEGO bricks are being established around the country.
I connected with mom blogger, Jean "Stimey" Winegardner, who writes about the autism spectrum and her eight-year-old son Jack.
"Jack has been interested in LEGO from a really young age. I think it is wonderful for him because he uses his imagination and it develops his fine motor skills. Building LEGO sets also helps develop direction-following skills, which is wonderful. Jack built the Millennium Falcon after Christmas this year almost entirely by himself. It was a huge accomplishment, which both he and I recognized. LEGO does a great job of making seemingly complicated construction seem simple and step-by-step, which is great for kids who might have trouble following a series of directions."
In interviewing several local Carlsbad moms, I discovered that LEGOLAND® California and SEA LIFE™ Carlsbad Aquarium are also particularly impactful to children who are on the autism spectrum.
A local resident and good friend, Marcy, says her son Austin finds SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium to be soothing, as long as it's not too crowded, and that some of the hands-on, collaborative areas, like the sand-castle building in SEA LIFE or the DUPLO building area in the Water Park, are great places for him to work on his social development since they involve not only building on an individual level, but also working with other children to make a collaborative model.
One local military mom and blogger, Lily Ashley, wrote a piece about her family’s experience at SEA LIFE, quoting her son, “Mommy, I LOVE it here, this is MY dream come true.” She went on to write that, “his ADHD and anxiety were completely under control that day. The water is his zone, staring at the sea animals for hours is so therapeutic for him.”
For another local mom, Charity, her son “Bubba” was fascinated with LEGO products from an early age and was only recently diagnosed, in his teen years, as being on the spectrum. She says that he would spend hours in the LEGOLAND California building rooms and that his anxious, erratic behavior that typically accompanied trips to theme parks was non-existent while in those LEGO building rooms.
Also, LEGOLAND California Resort has implemented a new policy of providing exit passes to families with children who have autism. Please see Guest Services upon your arrival to the Park.
Model Mom Mary