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Playing with building blocks of creativity help children with autism
Date:11/29/2010

In an attempt to help children with autism learn the building blocks of creativity, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) tapped a toy box staple for help legos. By building lego structures in new and unique ways, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) learned to use creativity, an important skill that they had seen as very challenging prior to the study.

"In every day life we need to be able to respond to new situations," said Deborah A. Napolitano, Ph.D., BCBA-D., the study's principal investigator and assistant professor of Pediatrics at URMC's Golisano Children's Hospital. "If a child has only a rote set of skills, it's hard to be successful."

Many children with ASD can become frustrated and uncomfortable when asked to break out of repetitive activities and create something new. Using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the science of figuring out how to target and systematically change a specific behavior, the study's researchers succeeded in teaching all six children with ASD in the study to play with legos in a more creative way. The study's findings have been published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis. The children, who had wanted to create the same 24-block lego structure over and over again at the start of the study, began venturing out of their comfort zones to create new structures with different color patterns or that were shaped differently.

Snapping a yellow lego onto a blue one when only red blocks had touched blue blocks in the previous structure, for instance, was a big step in helping a study participant with ASD cope with new situations encountered in everyday life, such as learning to say hello when someone they know but were not expecting to see greets them.

"We really can teach kids just about anything as long as it's systematic," said Napolitano.

By the end of the study, all six participants succeeded in making changes to every lego structu
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Contact: Katie Sauer
katie_sauer@urmc.rochester.edu
585-276-4298
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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