Friday, November 17, 2006

Kids with AS Join Lego Challenge

A group of kids with AS join a competition to create programmable Lego robots. They also learn how to work together. Sounds challenging but worth it!
" 'Legos generally are reliable,' said Karen DeCarlo, “They always go together.” She said both her her sons, Zachary, who has AS, and Nick, who has sensory-integration disorder, which leaves him easily distracted, love Legos.“There’s a huge amount of creativity with these kids, so I think Legos satisfy the need to create,” she said, but they also meet Zachary and Nick’s “need to conform to rules.”

“When they first started they were all little independent bodies,” DeCarlo said. Months later, there are still independent bodies running around the room in Arlington’s Langston Recreation Center, where the team has been meeting, but they also cluster into pairs and trios to work on different elements of the project, such as adjusting the robot’s programming on an Apple computer, tweaking the pusher arms of the robot itself, or calibrating a crane to receive its cargo of a dump truck and hoist it into the air. There are still clashes - with another personality, a recalcitrant Lego device, or simply with a difficult-to-negotiate world - but there is little notice paid to the outbursts. For the most part, the children allow one another to be themselves. “They seem rude,” DeCarlo said. “But they don’t offend each other.”She sees all of the children are learning valuable skills besides Lego construction. “They need to have social experiences: how to work together, how to solve problems, how to continue when someone has an anxiety attack.”Karen Gorman said she is learning too. “It’s been a really hard thing for the parents to pull back and let them do their own thing, let them make their own mistakes, let them fix their mistakes.”She said she’d tried to put her 11-year-old son Patrick on a soccer team, but it hadn’t worked out. Both she and Patrick had struggled to fit in with people who didn’t understand how Patrick’s behavior was altered by his perception of the world. “The level of anxiety is so much lower when we’re working in a group that’s so similar to each other,” Gorman said. “If one of our kids has a meltdown, it’s okay, we know how to handle it.”

Article here.

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