Looking at LEGO

by Celina Bledowska, on 22 March 2021

In a recent interview with Alpha Inclusion & Communication’s, Amy Eleftheriades, the importance of LEGO as a means of reducing stress was explored. As so many Norfolk Developers appear to be mildly obsessed with these vibrantly coloured building objects we decided to look at the roots of their passion.

Originally a qualified teacher, Amy also has experience of working in a residential school and has always worked with young people and adults who have problems with communication. She has also spent time in Brazil working with children and exploring means of enhancing their communication skills.

While teaching, Amy learned about LEGO based therapy that was used in California to promote and encourage communication for those on the autistic spectrum. Following on from this training, Amy quickly appreciated that LEGO has a lot to offer anyone trying to build teamwork skills as well as enhancing communication development. Amy fully believes that “LEGO is a great tool for a logical thinker.” This has led her to apply her LEGO skills to both adults and children.

The team went on to use their LEGO experience in their workplace.

She’s also shared her knowledge with a group of IT professionals, “Originally, it was incredible to watch these adults behaving in a very similar way in terms of mis-communication” The team went on to use their LEGO experience in their workplace. This prowess has helped Amy in the field of mental health, many adults, find LEGO a useful way of winding down - relieving stress.

Bussing Blocks

One of the most ingenious tools used by Amy is the block bus - a converted vehicle no less. The bus is filled with all types of games and LEGO to encourage communication and therapy, this resource is beneficial to all.

Sadly, as a result of the pandemic, Alpha Inclusion’s block bus is resting but the team still carry out their training work via - you’ve guessed it, Zoom. But the company has been on a mission to source tablets and other resources to continue its valuable work. As a Social Enterprise, funds are always tight but Norfolk Developers’ Neil Carroll has come to the rescue by advising what equipment and tech setup was needed to improve the facilities so that clients can still use the block bus and be Covid safe.

LEGO & Developers

We also talked to Nor Dev’s Dom Davis about why so many devs love LEGO. He agreed that LEGO definitely helps with problem solving, something that most have to do in their daily coding lives, and he added: “this is a creative process but one that doesn’t require a specific skill set, but for painting, drawing or woodwork you have to have a definite skill.” And musing about the subject, Dom added, “with LEGO you have a predefined set of components that can be combined and with programming you also have a predefined set of components that you have to put together in an interesting way - this does require a skill.” But with some advanced LEGO you will need a skill, a Bugatti hyper realistic model is a point in question. Dom also mentioned that some with dyslexia problems can also flourish with making LEGO constructions, and gain a sense of achievement that may be lacking in other facets of their lives. During his childhood Dom occupied himself with making LEGO models and he has been constructing since he was 4 years old.

Dom Davis at NorDevCon2020 with Alpha Inclusion & Communication.

And, Tom Haczewski of The User Story, is another LEGO enthusiast. He also recognises the importance of using the models in helping those with communication problems. Tom also speculated that LEGO might fill the niche in a programmer's brain that wants to build things. “They are pre dispositioned to build things, as a developer everything you do is about building things from little bits to make a larger construction.”

Unwinding through construction

Many Devs also use LEGO to unwind, they can take time away from the screen and find satisfaction in physically constructing something. Rockets, model towns, even pink ‘girl LEGO’ can all be made and there are many levels of technical ability to suit even the most demanding of LEGO builders - the range is huge. There is even a LEGO mindstorm, which is programmable.

Dom also suggested that one of the many reasons programmers enjoy unwinding by constructing is that “with LEGO I use the same bits of my programmer brain but not in such an intense way.” Even looking for a missing piece of LEGO entails a logical process, but Dom does feel that the building aspect is cognitively intense whereas the search for missing pieces can prove to be cathartic. Over a week Dom can indulge his passion for up to “tens of hours.” He also stressed that this is a wonderful way of engaging with his children.

Dom Davis demonstrates LEGO Mindstorm Spirograph.

The spectrum

It is widely recognised that many children on the autistic spectrum excel at coding. Carrying this skill forward to adulthood helps them find their place in a world that’s often very confusing and noisy. Talking about this to Tom, he suggested that “many on the spectrum like order and predictability and LEGO gives people the ability to be creative through using a specific set of parameters ”

Tom also agreed with Dom that LEGO does act as a tool for relieving stress. “By following the LEGO instructions, you have to concentrate on these and then your mind is diverted from some of the problems you mightn’t necessarily want to think about.”

LEGO isn’t just a toy or plaything, it really can enrich and enhance your life..

Amy Eleftheriades joined us last week to discuss Emotional Regulation and her Top Tips for being ok. Catch it all on the YouTubes, and don't forget to give us a like and subscribe whilst you're there 😉