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A new form of occupational therapy is using Legos to help build social skills in Southwest VA

A new form of occupational therapy is teaching children the building blocks of life using Legos.

Jamie Walker is a certified Occupational Therapist Assistant. She saw a need in Botetourt and Roanoke County to help children struggling with social and communication skills, especially during the pandemic. So, Walker created OT Tough Kids to work on social skills with children while playing.

Walker says, “I had a lot of parents in my previous lines of work say ‘My kids are doing well in school. My kids are doing great with the basics self-care tasks, but they are lacking in social skills.’”

She opened OT Tough Kids in August of 2022 and teaches Occupational Therapy in a fun and playful way.

“I came up with social groups to get kids involved in talking to one another, taking instructions from one another, being able to look someone in the eye and say ‘Good morning. How are you?’ which can be really hard for autistic kids, any type of special needs children, and also these kids that are growing up in the COVID setting,” says Walker.

One area that she specializes in is Lego Therapy. This uses the popular toy to help children work on their communication and motor skills.

Walker says, “One thing that is a problem with certain kids is they don’t want to work on things like that. So, we have a special session for Lego therapy and most kids love Lego’s.”

When children participate in Lego Therapy, they are assigned three different jobs.

The first job is as an engineer, which is where they are given the task of looking at pictures and giving instructions on what the group is building.

The second job is the supplier. This person is in charge of providing the right Lego’s for the project.

Lastly, is the builder, where they are in charge of putting the Lego’s in the right spot to create the finished product.

Walker says, “It keeps them involved because it’s Lego’s, but at the same time, it requires them to speak clearly to their friends, take instruction [and] take corrections from other kids.”

Noah Eses is a student at OT Tough Kids. He says that working with Lego’s has helped him learn new skills to deal with his anger.

Eses says, “Supposedly, we are working on social skills, but it is hard to tell that we actually are.”

Jamie says her favorite part about what she does is seeing the parent’s reaction. She spoke to a mom who says after therapy, her child has better self-control.

Walker says, “She said it has been great. He is doing so much better in the classroom. Those meltdowns aren’t happening. She used to get calls from the school ‘You’ve got to come pick up your child.’ She said that has happened once since he started, and it was happening on a regular basis.”

Sunday Johansen says her son, Norris, doesn’t do well with people and gets flustered very easily. Norris has been taking classes at OT Tough for several months. His mom says she has seen major improvements in his behavior.

“I am just so glad that he [was able] to work through it and not be frustrated as much and he has some strategies that he can use,” says Sunday Johansen.

Jamie says she hopes she can continue to help more children in the community.

“So helping the families give life skills to these kids that will make them successful in their 30s and 40s so they can live on their own, they can be safe is really what I want to do,” says Walker.

OT Tough Kids also offers life skills classes. This includes cooking, applying to jobs, preparing for an interview and more.

Source: WSLS News 10

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