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Research at Play Included®

Curiosity, research and innovation are central to our work at Play Included. We have developed our programmes based on the latest thinking on neurodiversity, child development, and learning through play, and continue to iterate, test, and learn from further research and implementation. Find out more about our research activities below, and feel free to get in touch with any questions on hello@playincluded.com.

International evaluation of the Brick-by-Brick® programme

Our partners AT-Autism have conducted an independent evaluation of our Brick-by-Brick® Programme and LEGO brick based therapy training in United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, Malta, Singapore, and the United States of America. We are really proud of the results – high levels of satisfaction with our training, and good outcomes from children, families and Brick Club Facilitators. Many of the pilot participants are continuing to run Brick Clubs.  

Evaluating our training

  • 87% of Brick Club Facilitators said they felt confident delivering Brick Clubs after completing our training 

  • 100% of Brick Club Facilitators would recommend the Brick-by-Brick® Programme to other professionals  

Brick Club outcomes  

  • 92% of children enjoyed or really enjoyed coming to Brick Club 

  • 76% of children gave Brick Club 9 or 10 out of 10 

  • 85% of children increased their enjoyment of being part of a group 

  • 77% of children increased their confidence 

  • 71% of children increased their friendships 

  • 71% of children increased their language skills 

  • 100% of Brick Club Facilitators had their expectations of the Brick-by-Brick® Programme met or exceeded 

The I-SOCIALISE randomised controlled trial

Our Founder and Director Dr Gina Gomez de la Cuesta was a co-applicant and advisor on the first large-scale pragmatic randomized controlled trial in the UK funded by the National Institute of Health Research.

Results from this research showed LEGO brick based therapy improved social skills and was cost effective, feasible to implement in schools and had a high level of acceptability.

See the open-access research papers below:

  • Wright, B., Kingsley, E., Cooper, C., Biggs, K., Bursnall, M., Wang, H. I., ... & Le Couteur, A. (2023). I-SOCIALISE: Results from a cluster randomised controlled trial investigating the social competence and isolation of children with autism taking part in LEGO® based therapy (‘Play Brick Therapy’) clubs in school environments. Autism, 13623613231159699. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36991578/  

  • Barr, A., Coates, E., Kingsley, E., de la Cuesta, G. G., Biggs, K., Le Couteur, A., & Wright, B. (2022). A mixed methods evaluation of the acceptability of therapy using LEGO® bricks (LEGO® based therapy) in mainstream primary and secondary education. Autism Research, 15(7), 1237-1248. https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.2725  

  • Wang, H. I., Wright, B. D., Bursnall, M., Cooper, C., Kingsley, E., Le Couteur, A., ... & Parrott, S. (2022). Cost-utility analysis of LEGO based therapy for school children and young people with autism spectrum disorder: results from a randomised controlled trial. BMJ open, 12(1), e056347. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2021-056347  

  • Varley, D., Wright, B., Cooper, C., Marshall, D., Biggs, K., Ali, S., Chater, T., Coates, E., Gilbody, S., Gomez de la Cuesta, G., Kingsley, E., Le Couteur, A., McKelvey, A., Shephard, N., & Teare, D. (2019). Investigating SOcial Competence and Isolation in children with Autism taking part in LEGO-based therapy clubs In School Environments (I-SOCIALISE): study protocol. BMJ Open, 9(5), 1-9. [e030471]. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2019-030471  

The Brick-by-Brick® Programme in Mexico and Kenya

We want our programmes to be as accessible to as many children as possible. With support from The LEGO Foundation, we tested the feasibility and impact of Brick Club in new settings, where LEGO bricks aren’t as readily available and LEGO brick based therapy is less widely known about.  

We are extremely proud of the partners that we worked with in Mexico and Kenya to set up and deliver the Brick-by-Brick® Programme. Here are some key things that we learned: 

  • Brick Clubs are feasible and acceptable in new countries, even where LEGO brick-based therapy is not as widely implemented   

  • Our training and materials could be more representative of different groups and cultures, we can create more supporting materials for new Brick Club Facilitators  

  • Professionals found the online training accessible and it offered them an introduction to neurodiversity, autism, and learning through play that had not been available from other sources  

  • Families found engaging with the Brick-by-Brick® programme valuable for meeting other families, and children enjoyed meeting other children who thought like them, with similar life experiences  

  • Brick Clubs can be adapted to suit a wide range of children, and you can apply the Brick-by-Brick® methodology with a wide range of materials, for example, wooden blocks or fabric dolls in addition to LEGO® bricks  

Learn more: 

Brick-by-Brick Innovation

With support from the LEGO Foundation, we have been testing and learning about how the Brick-by-Brick® programme can support children in a range of different settings and contexts. We worked with international teams to pilot Brick Clubs with refugee children, children who were learning a new language, and older adolescent children aged between 18 and 25 years. Here’s what we learned: 

  • The Brick-by-Brick® programme is a very flexible methodology which has the potential to support a very wide range of children and young people   

  • Different LEGO® sets and materials can be used in Brick Clubs, such as simpler sets for younger children and more complex and technical sets for teenagers and young adults  

“When [the LEGO Foundation] told me about it, it just went “bing!” I thought it would be an amazing idea for our students, who they are, what their challenges are, what their struggles are, this could be the perfect tool to work on working together. Not a lot of activities we do here are collaborative” Søren from STU Ung Egedal

Learn more about how the Brick-by-Brick programme has been used to support refugee children, teenagers, and young adults in our blogpost. Check out the Belleville Primary School case study.

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