In an attempt to help children with autism learn the building blocks of creativity, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) tapped a toy box staple for help – legos.
Children with autism like to do repetitive tasks and dislike change. This study asked children to build lego blocks, observed the patterns each of them are comfortable with, slowly introduce change in the patterns, encourage them with reward and pat on the back for adopting the change in pattern. It showed positive results proving that autistic children can be taught to deal with change and also react to external reward. These are skills that are very useful in real life.
Many children with ASD can become frustrated and uncomfortable when asked to break out of repetitive activities and create something new. Using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the science of figuring out how to target and systematically change a specific behavior, the study’s researchers succeeded in teaching all six children with ASD in the study to play with legos in a more creative way. The study’s findings have been published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis. The children, who had wanted to create the same 24-block lego structure over and over again at the start of the study, began venturing out of their comfort zones to create new structures with different color patterns or that were shaped differently.
“In every day life we need to be able to respond to new situations,” said Deborah A. Napolitano, Ph.D., BCBA-D., the study’s principal investigator and assistant professor of Pediatrics at URMC’s Golisano Children’s Hospital. “If a child has only a rote set of skills, it’s hard to be successful.”
“The study’s findings could pave the way for new studies testing interventions that attempt to improve a wide variety of social skills and behaviors among people with ASD,” said Napolitano. “With positive reinforcement and teaching sessions, such tasks as engaging in novel conversations, posing new questions and creating new ways to play could be within reach for children with ASD.”