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Investigating SOcial Competence and Isolation in children with Autism taking part in LEGO®-based therapy clubs In School Environments (I-SOCIALISE)

*NB: the term autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is used in the below description of the I-SOCIALISE study in line with the diagnostic definitions of the DSM-5 and the ICD-10 and other study outputs. The research team are aware, however, that there are a number of preferred terms used by this community. The use of ASD was discussed and decided upon with study patient and public involvement (PPI) groups and individual. These conversations also highlighted some of the preferred terms, though this is not an exhaustive list: autism, autism spectrum condition, on the autistic spectrum, child with/without autism. For the purposes of this research, the use of ASD will include these terms. The research team would like to thank those involved in the discussion of this terminology for their valued input.  

It is estimated that approximately 1.6% of people in the UK have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) which is characterised by differences in social interaction, communication, behaviour, and interests. These differences mean that children of different neurotypes don’t always interact in the same way with each other which can lead to exclusion and children with ASD feeling socially isolated.

‘Social skills training interventions’ are often used to support children by offering opportunities to learn about typical social skills. While children in these settings may learn to demonstrate the taught social skills within the setting of the intervention, though, using these skills in their everyday lives is often unsuccessful.

LEGO® based therapy, now known as Play Brick Therapy, is a new programme that is specifically designed to offer opportunities for children to interact with each other and learn through play together. The main aim of this research study is to examine whether LEGO® based therapy groups in schools have any impact on the social and emotional competence and perceived social isolation of children with ASD. The research also aims to look at any changes in the mental and more general health of the children resulting from LEGO® based therapy.

The study aimed to recruit 240 children and young people with ASD aged between 7 and 15 years old from mainstream schools in York, Leeds, Sheffield and their surrounding areas. Also recruited for each child or young person was a parent or guardian and a teacher at their school. Schools will be randomly allocated (this is similar to tossing a coin) to either attend a LEGO® based therapy groups or to access usual support which includes support from their GPs, mental health and education professionals.

The programme will be delivered by an assigned school teacher or teaching assistant within the child’s school. Children allocated to receive the LEGO® based therapy groups will attend weekly sessions once a week for 12 weeks.

Please note this study is no longer recruiting new participants. If you would like further information regarding the I-SOCIALISE trial, please contact the research team. 

To access the I-SOCIALISE LEGO® based therapy manual, please see the following:

Collaborators

Prof. Barry Wright, Chief Investigator; Ellen Kingsley, Trial Manager - University of York & Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust; Kirsty McKendrick, Trial Manager – University of Sheffield ; Dr Ann Le Couteur, Consultant - Newcastle University; Anne McKelvey, Consultant - York City Council; Prof. Cindy Cooper, CTRU Support - University of Sheffield; Dr David Marshall, Consultant - University of York; Dr Dawn Teare, Statistician - University of Sheffield; Dr Elizabeth Coates, Qualitative researcher - University of Sheffield; Dr Georgina Gomez de la Cuesta, Consultant – Play Included CIC