Brick by Brick

By Natasha

Those familiar little bricks are being put to extraordinary use.

Originally developed by Daniel B. LeGoff (a neuropsychologist), who saw the mighty potential of this humble brick, Lego® Therapy has grown into a motivational practice used by speech and language therapists, teaching staff and parents alike.

It is believed that the name Lego® was adapted from the Danish phrase for ‘play well’. Certainly for many children, the ability to play and interact within social settings seems perfectly natural: it is a skill we often take for granted.  Although, there are also children who find the strategies needed for peer interaction less accessible. Intimidating, even.

Magic Words Therapy - a boy playing with Lego

How can a child learn to socialize in a safe and supportive environment?

Our method: Lego® Therapy!

At Magic Words, we use this play-based approach to facilitate children toward ''communicative competence'' (Ralph and Rochester, 2016), depending on their individualised targets. Whilst some might need to work on maintaining eye contact and attention, others might attend the group to aid understanding of prepositions, problem-solving or sequencing.  

The aim of the game is, of course, to build a Lego model. This can be a simplistic or as complicated as you need it to be, according to ability and attention span of the group. The roles that we use are:

  • Builder: constructs the model, listens to the architect

  • Supplier: selects the bricks at each stage, listens to the architect

  • Architect: holds the instructions, describes the bricks to the supplier, instructs the builder where to put them

  • Facilitator: identifies problems and supports the group with solution

If you have limited numbers you do not have to include every role. Pick them according to the child's targets. For example, if the child struggles with listening you may wish to encourage them by letting them be the builder; they have the motivational reward of receiving a brick and putting it in place. Alternatively, if you have a child who needs to practice describing and ordering key words, the architect role would be an option.

Magic Words Therapy - an infographic describing a brick analogy

In addition to the jobs, we establish a set of lego-rules to encourage 'model' behaviour. Depending on the age of the group, this could be a clear-cut as good sitting, good looking, good listening, and good talking. Lego® points can be rewarded to acknowledge their participation.  

Once the adult has explained each rule and role, they must aim to 'gradually step back and allow the participants to work out social solutions more independently as the intervention progresses' (Ralph and Rochester, 2016). It is hoped that at some point each child will become their own facilitator and navigate social interactions with the same skill they require to build a collaborative model.

One parent, whose child attended Lego® Therapy sessions at Magic Words, explained how her child began to generalise his new awareness:

“He has understood what good listening is for the first time. He now understands why we need to listen and what we need to do to listen well. This has really helped him access small group activities and to concentrate. His eye contact which was a major problem area for him has also improved as a result of understanding that looking is important as it helps people know you are talking to them. He has thoroughly enjoyed the activities and it has also increased his interest in Lego which he is playing with much more outside the group. I think it has also improved his social skills generally...” 

With the motivation of Lego® and the naturalistic setting of a play-based task, this child was able to access a level of social interaction, that he had previously not understood the benefits of.

It has certainly become apparent that this therapy is versatile and accessible approach for those with social, communication and language difficulties. Carolyn Green and Elen Wales, two of our very own therapists, remarked in their article 'Building Lego, building language': 'Several parents expressed that Lego Therapy offered intervention where the alternative would have been to not access sessions at all' (Bulletin, November 2016). 

Consequently, what does Lego® mean to the therapists at Magic Words? 

Lego® Therapy is a impressively straightforward and structured approach that allows for a great variety of skills to be modelled, practiced and repeated. It allows a therapist, teacher, teaching assistant or parent to incorporate a diverse range of targets under the guise of play. It allows the children who participate to have fun, to collaborate, to build their skill set brick by brick.

To learn more about Lego® Therapy, please contact us.

Diagnosis: pulling through the grief process

Magic Words Therapy - Eleanor Harris.jpg

By Eleanor Harris - Director of Magic Words Therapy and Specialist Generalist Speech and Language Therapist

Providing a child’s diagnosis to a parent can be like launching a grenade at them.  With one short sentence you can be shattering their hopes and dreams of the perfect child that breezes through school, makes friends easily and goes on to over achieve. It doesn’t matter if the diagnosis is something as mild and temporary as a simple speech sound delay, or as serious and long term as Autism. Some parents readily accept the diagnosis after a long battle to get their child’s difficulties recognised while others are battling through the grief process and are not yet able to accept what professionals are telling them, seeking second opinions or not seeking any opinions at all and holding up a shield to the grenade.

There is little in a Speech and Language Therapist’s training that prepares them for giving a diagnosis to a parent. It wasn’t until I had been through the grief process with my own son and his diagnosis of permanent hearing loss at one month old that I fully understood how the words can sting. The brain reacts to protect itself through denial, you can feel angry at professionals and yourself for not doing enough, ‘if only’ thoughts plague you with guilt and sadness sets in for the perfect and easy child development that your child will not have and the uncertainty for the future. 

Our role as diagnosing professionals is to recognise the stage at which a parent is at in the grief process, to soften our tone and words to show empathy, to be honest and frank and to provide them with a blanket of support and encouragement. We should provide high quality information using easy to understand language, given at a time when the parents are ready to receive it. I remember being given boxes and boxes of information that remained unread for quite some time until I was ready to ‘deal with it’. Professionals need to remain on hand for weeks after the diagnosis to be available for the questions that will inevitably arise after the shock of that initial grenade.

Magic Words Therapy - a father and son playing and smiling.png

As you move through the process, sometimes stuck in one stage, sometimes feeling all of them at once, you gradually move towards the stage of acceptance.  You are able to accept where your child is now, what you can do to make them happy and healthy at their current stage, and begin to look towards the future with hope, optimism and certainty. Although your child’s passage through the childhood years won’t be the same as everyone else’s, they will achieve their best, be happy and be who they are with loving support from their family.

Having moved through the grieving process some time ago now, I look at my little boy and I’m so proud of his achievements and genuinely don’t even see his disability as a disability any more, just a difference that makes him stand out from the crowd.

Speech Therapists – for further information about best practice when providing a diagnosis, read this informative article

Parents – for further information on understanding the grief process related to a child’s diagnosis read this informative article

True Colours

By Natasha White

February. The month when all that mushy emotional stuff is celebrated. An overwhelming amount of Valentine's Day cards and gifts line the shelves of the shops and what colour strikes us most? Red. Maybe pink. Clearly, we have come to associate a particular colour with love, just as we load all other colours with meanings and feelings.

Magic Words Therapy - the front cover of a book called The Colour Monster.png

Anna Llenas, a Barcelona based illustrator and author, explores this in her beautiful book, The Colour Monster(Templar Publishing). 

A rather confused little monster is feeling a little muddled inside. Luckily, he has a friend, a little girl, who helps him sort through and focus on each emotion separately. As they work to place each emotion in a jar, Llenas cleverly provides several perspectives from which to explore the feelings in greater depth:

Label: the emotion is given a name

Describe: uses a metaphor or simile to create a comparison to a concrete object or noun

Action: shows how it can manifest and what it can feel like

Once the feelings are sorted and understood, the monster begins to feel better. He even starts to feel a warm and cosy feeling. He is surrounded by a mixture of pink flowers and hearts and the reader is asked: 'But what's this?' Something I think we can all recognise... 

Importantly, the monster's private feelings are linked back towards seeking social engagement. The little girl suggests ways in which he can 'deal' with the different emotions and most of them stress the importance of 'togetherness', such as holding hands.  

As a result, the book could be used as a classroom or therapy tool; The Colour Monster provides a fun platform to teach emotional literacy. 

Some tips for teaching your child emotional literacy skills:

 For the younger ones:

  • Create and colour your own colour monster and label the feelings

  • Make colour cards for the child to signal how they are feeling today

  • Make your own jars and put coloured counters or items in to describe feelings

  • Contextualise: think about times when they felt the different emotions. There is also an official activity book available, which puts the colour monster in different situations and asks you to colour him in to illustrate his emotion. 

  • Discuss practical strategies to cope with emotions 


For the older ones: 

  • Consider empathy: learn that you can inspire feelings in other people too 

  • Explore why did the little girl want to help her monster friend

  • Explore what happens when more than one feeling gets mixed up together

Get to know us a little...

By Natasha White

Hello Friends!

Welcome to the Magic Words Therapy blog. Here you will find advice, handouts, interviews and links to useful pages, amongst other exciting features.  

If you want to get to know us a little more, here are some facts for you: 

Eleanor Harris

1) Magic Words was founded in 2009 by Director, Eleanor Harris. Shortly after our Director, Frankie Paterson, came on board. Since then we have expanded to meet the needs of our clients. 

2) We have 11 employed therapists, whose specialisms include: Complex Needs, Hearing Impairment, Selective Mutism, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Stammering. We also have 2 administrative staff to help you with your queries, all of whom have teaching experience. 

3) We have 4 qualified Elklan tutors and 1 Makaton tutor on our staff. We regularly run courses in Milton Keynes (just by junction 14 of the M1) and Sarratt (just between junction 18 and 19 of the M25). We also offer bespoke school training. If you wish to know more, please visit our schools page

4) Our therapists work in a wide range of settings and in partnership with a variety of specialist agencies. Currently, we work across 20+ schools (including nurseries, primary and secondary schools) in the areas of Milton Keynes, Bedford, Northampton, Luton, Dunstable, Elstree, Watford, Borehamwood, Kensington and Harrow. We have worked with fostering and adoption agencies, mental health professionals, NHS staff, occupational therapists, to name but a few. 

5) Since 2015 we have run Lego® Therapy sessions with primary and secondary school aged children. They have been extremely successful in promoting social and communication skills. Two of our therapists (Carolyn Fox and Elen Wales) have recently had an article, entitled 'Building Lego, Building Language' published in Bulletin, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy magazine. 

6) We run an extensive continuous professional development (CPD) scheme for our therapists and invite other professionals to join us. You can find our CPD diary and our booking page here. On previous dates we have welcomed Daniel Hunter (Treating Dysfluency in Pre-School Children and Working with School-Aged Children who Stammer), Sunita Shah (How to Work with Bilingualism in Children’s Speech and Language Therapy and Educational Settings), Melanie Cross (Attachment and Communication), Alison Bryan (Colourful Semantics), Dr Tony Sirimanna (Auditory Processing Disorder) and Pamela Williams (Nuffield Dyspraxia Programme Training). 

7) Between us, we have 18 degrees and 7 diplomas. All of our therapists are registered with Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) and are regulated by the Health Care and Professionals Council (HCPC).  

8) We are a charitable bunch! From wearing our ugliest Christmas jumpers to donning our running gear, we love to support worthwhile causes and raise a little money along the way. Look out for our participation on awareness day events and sponsor us if you can.

Please note: all facts accurate at the time of writing. They are subject to change- we are busy growing our clinic!

Christmas Jumper Day 2016

Magic Words Therapy - a photo montage of the team in Christmas jumpers

We're getting silly for a serious cause- Save the Children Christmas Jumper Day!

Each of our therapists will be wearing a wonderfully Christmassy jumper today. Whether it's flashy or the ugliest thing they could bear to wear, everyone will be donating £2 to Save the Children for the privilege. 

If you would like to support us, please text TEAMMWORDS to 70050. You will be billed £2 plus standard rate text message. Save the Children receive 100% of your donation. To see what work this amazing charity does, please click here.

Or you could join us... Go on. Slip in to something sparkly, share on social media using #christmasjumperday and donate.

Lego® Therapy: Teaching Teachers to Play

Magic Words Therapy - a photo of a full classroom with a presenter at the front.png

Over two very successful sessions, Magic Words provided training for Learning Support and Teaching Staff who were eager to understand how Lego® groups could be utilised in a way to support their pupils' needs. The group came together from various school settings based in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas.

Amongst some enjoyable practicals and video examples of therapy sessions, we covered: 

  • History and research on the development of Lego®-based practices

  • The communication pyramid 

  • Language and Social Skills

  • Job-roles: Builder, Supplier, Architect, Facilitator, Examiner

  • Who should do each role?

  • Lego® rules

  • Discussion of how to facilitate a group

  • What a typical session looks like

  • Visual timetable

  • Evaluation of progress

  • Question-time with a qualified speech and language therapist

Magic Words Therapy - ladies discussing around a table with Lego on it

We received some encouraging feedback from several of the staff to the effect that they would be running their own Lego® groups as soon as possible. It would appear that Lego®Therapy is not only extremely accessible for our children, but is an inviting scheme for the adults facilitating social growth and communicative needs.

This particular continuous professional development training was arranged in association with PEP:MK, Primary Enrichment Partnership. For further dates, please visit their website here.  

Alternatively, we can provide direct training adapted to your needs. Please contact us to learn more.