June 2023

How Finlay Built Up Confidence One Brick at a Time

Through Brick Club®, a programme for autistic children run by Play Included® and funded by the LEGO Foundation, 15-year-old Finlay has experienced a real boost in confidence and discovered new strengths.

The picture shows Finlay sitting at a desk, building with LEGO bricks

Finlay has been part of a local Brick Club in the North of England for the past year. Brick Clubs are weekly meetups where young people can express themselves, learn through play and collaborate with others by working together building or designing LEGO® models.

The programme behind Brick Clubs is called Brick-by-Brick® programme and is run by social enterprise and LEGO Foundation partner Play Included. Brick Clubs are designed to offer neurodivergent children positive, meaningful and social experiences in an understanding, playful and accepting environment.

By building and designing LEGO models, the children work together to problem-solve and share a fun experience. In a session, children rotate between being a builder, a supplier or an engineer. Collaborative building supports all members of the club to create as a group and help each other out.

"I like being the engineer, because it’s pretty challenging; describing what [the model] looks like, that’s quite hard, but I like describing the shapes of the pieces."
Finlay, 15

Strengthening different communication skills in an environment that works best for Finlay has boosted his self-belief. Finlay is more open and happier in explaining his thoughts, feelings and ideas; which has also helped his classmates, teachers and his family. They can all see how much more relaxed and assured he is as a young man

“In the last year, he’s definitely had a boost in confidence around people,” explains Finlay’s mum, Susannah. “It was only a few years ago that I was talking to his teachers about this because he would get frustrated as he felt more confident than people realised. He felt underestimated a little bit. But that’s all changed. He’s started communicating better and discovered the best way to get things across is to tell people [how he feels].”

“He’s learned a lot about patience, working together and accepting that everyone has ideas,” Susannah continues. “He understands that it's okay to have different ideas to everyone else, but just share them. He’s increasingly seeing how by working together, you can figure out a way to accomplish what you're looking to accomplish"

Finlay smiling at his Brick Club mates

How play and a relaxed atmosphere support all children’s growth

Brick Clubs as well as other playful learning environments provide a relaxed setting where there’s no right or wrong.Conversation develops naturally among children and confidence is boosted. Further benefits include:

  • Social interaction and shared understanding– By having the chance to build, play and interact with others in an environment that accepts and understands their needs, young people develop confidence and start to develop meaningful friendships, all whilst using their skills in collaborating, turn-taking, communicating and problem-solving.
  • A sense of belonging– Being a member of Brick Club and meeting others who share your interests and can experience similar challenges to you, means that young people can feel less anxious and are able to start building confidence and friendships in a safe environment. 
  • Pride - Young people leave a session with a huge sense of pride for what they’ve created. And they often share this pride outside of Brick Club, talking about their creations and sharing pictures with others.

Listening in on the conversations of Finlay and his Brick Club, you quickly notice how much it provides an opportunity to experiment with vocabulary and different ways of communicating within the group. Listening more closely you can hear how everyone is freely putting themselves in another member’s shoes to use the necessary prepositions to describe the placement of LEGO Bricks or explain to each other that a piece should connect on their left or their right. Finlay is especially proud that he can now confidently get the attention of others by using their name as a prompt, reducing some of the frustrations that he may have experienced before: “by saying their name, they look at me and [better] understand what they have to find,” he says.

These seemingly small changes have given Finlay a game-changing boost of confidence that is now reflected in the classroom and his relationships with his peers.  A keen sportsman, Finlay is now part of a group of Donaldson’s Trust pupils who come together at lunch times to chat and kick a football around. He’s also recently joined a local cricket club, and, thanks to his ever-growing confidence, Finlay is enjoying meeting and getting to know new people outside of school. 

Finlay’s mum has a clear idea why Brick Club is so impactful for her son – it is face-to-face interaction that is free from the distractions of modern life.

"It’s going back to basics and encouraging communication and learning. It’s accepting that everyone has ideas."
Susannah, Finlay's mother

Building belonging, making friends

Social enterprise Play Included partnered with us to create the Brick-by-Brick programme. Through Brick Clubs, young people who need support with social and communication skills – especially those on the autism spectrum – build LEGO models together. There’s a facilitator on hand, but the group leads their own project, choosing what to build and picking roles: engineer, builder, supplier.

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