LEGO announces initiatives to support neurodivergent individuals in stores [News]

The LEGO Group has today announced that they will be implementing a series of measures to make life easier for autistic and neurodivergent children and adults in their brick-and-mortar stores. Work is being carried out with KultureCity, a charity whose aim is to facilitate the implementation of such measures. This is actually not the first time the two firms have worked together; the LEGO House, in Billund, Denmark, has already received KultureCity’s stamp of approval for sensory inclusivity. The aim is for all stores in the USA and Canada to get the same certification this April, with more locations worldwide to follow later in the year.

The LEGO Life Magazine will also receive some minor updates to make it more accessible for everyone. And the LEGO Foundation has also announced five new partners in their Play for All Accelerator program:

Social Cipher: a video game platform focused on social and emotional learning for the neurodivergent.

Kokoro Kids: A platform in Spanish, Portuguese, and English dedicated to using play for developing emotional skills early on in kids.

Mom’s Belief: an Indian-based organization (the largest in the country) approaching the education of neurodivergent children in a holistic manner.

onebillion: a software publisher dedicated to publishing reading and math resources designed to help those children in most need.

Little Journey: Using technology to bring a sense of ease to families with children amid the healthcare process.

Here’s LEGO’s press release on the initiative, with more details on all of the above.

The LEGO Group, LEGO House and the LEGO Foundation today announce a range of long-term initiatives designed to support and celebrate neurodivergent children and adults to mark the start of World Autism Acceptance Month.

Colette Burke, Chief Commercial Officer at the LEGO Group, comments:
“All LEGO® entities are united by our mission to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow and a belief that the benefits of play are equally critical to all children. This fuels our exploration of how to make the LEGO experience more inclusive and welcoming for everyone“. 

“We know the LEGO System in Play is enjoyed by neurodivergent fans of all ages and we want to support, inspire, and celebrate their creativity. We hope that the changes to our stores, publications and family attractions will have a positive impact and help embrace the diverse needs and strengths of our fans globally. There will always be more to do, and we’re committed to working with fans and experts to implement initiatives that can help make a difference in building a more inclusive world”.

Sensory inclusion at LEGO House and LEGO stores
Kulture®City is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing accessibility in public spaces for individuals with sensory needs and invisible disabilities. It certifies locations that provide visitors with an inclusive experience through staff training and access to support tools.

The certification serves as a reassurance to visitors that staff at certified venues understand how sensory needs vary and how best they can help ensure everyone feels welcome and supported in their visit. It also means that sensory bags are always available for checkout at no cost during visits. These contain items such as noise reducing headphones, fidget tools, visual cue cards, KultureCity branded lanyards and strobe reduction glasses*.

All LEGO stores in the U.S. and Canada will be KultureCity® Sensory Inclusive Certified in April. The ambition is to to expand certification to more countries later in the year. 
LEGO House already carries KultureCity Sensory Inclusive Certification. Located in Billund, Denmark, LEGO House is the ultimate LEGO fan experience and home of the LEGO brick and features unique Experience Zones, rooftop playgrounds and a LEGO Museum. It is the first experience centre in the Nordics to receive KultureCity certification. It also participates in the globally-recognised Sunflower Lanyard scheme** for people with hidden disabilities. In January, LEGO House unveiled a new experience in the History Collection, which features an interactive timeline with animations supported by audio, braille, International Sign and tangible wooden models to increase accessibility.

KultureCity signage indicating the Sensory Inclusive Certification will be visible at each location once team training is complete and supportive sensory bags are available. Social stories will be available on the KultureCity app to help guests prepare for their visit.

Fan reflections

Isabella age 11 and autistic reflected on the changes and what they mean to her:
“When I’m in a crowded place or noisy area, I feel nervous. The [noise reducing] headphones really help well because it just cancels out most loud noises. It gives me a little bit less stress. If there’s someone really close to me and I feel like I’m really nervous, I’ll just pop a fidget out and just play with it to calm myself down”. 

“I like having [noise reducing] headphones and fidgets in the LEGO store because it’s just going to make me feel really more welcome.”

Samantha, mum to Isabella said about the certification:
“When I heard about this project, I just beamed. I was so excited. I’ve been waiting for this – to just be able to go to the store, where the employees understand, and the store is ready for my child. It’s exciting. Having KultureCity involved gives me so much confidence that my child will enjoy the experience and the sensory bags will make us come to the store more often”.

Sean, autistic AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO play) also commented:
“To have sensory bags in a LEGO store when I was a kid would’ve changed my whole perspective on the communities I could be a part of”. 

“Being able to experience the LEGO store at my own pace would have allowed me to connect to so many other people and LEGO fans, and truly feel like I belong. This move will allow for people like me, a full-grown adult, to experience everything the store has to offer and let children visiting the store have their own perspective on their own lives changed in a positive way. That’s something that can’t be replaced”.

New features to LEGO Life Magazine for more inclusive play
The LEGO Group invited inclusion experts Special Networks to audit its LEGO Life magazine to understand how to make it more welcoming for neurodivergent readers. Special Networks reviewed two years’ worth of editions and praised the magazine’s clear language, diverse representation, and user-friendly layouts. However, they proposed a range of improvements that have been included in the latest edition (Issue 2 2024) and will continue to feature in future editions. These include: 

Numbering the boxes used in cartoons to make them easier to follow. 
Ensuring consistent and meaningful use of visual simples. 
Planning content to suit varied abilities and interests. 
Having consistency in placement of useful items, such as prompts for activity answers. 

Special Networks will expand its audit in 2024 and ask children and families to share their ideas on how to make the publication even more accessible. 

Download a copy of the magazine and sign up for news on the survey via the family newsletter at***.

‘Love The Way You Think’ Creators
A series of short films featuring autistic creators has been released on the LEGO Group’s YouTube channel. Called Love the Way They Think, the films showcase the creative talents of:

Casey “Remrov” Vormer, a pencil artist in Canada who creates hyper-realistic drawings.
Gaku, an artist and painter in Japan who creates super colourful and joyful works of art.
Allyson Gail, a U.S. LEGO creator who builds LEGO models of food – with faces! Allyson is also featured in the latest edition of LEGO Life magazine sharing her tips on how she loves to build (page 24 Issue 2 2024). She is the first in a new series of creators who will share their love for building with LEGO Life magazine readers.

All three creators also appear now on the kid-safe LEGO Life App and on 

LEGO Foundation Play for All Accelerator Winners
The LEGO Foundation’s Play for All Accelerator Programme is a three-phased programme aimed to support innovations that bring inclusive learning through play to neurodivergent children and their families. The US$ 20 million programme started with 25 organizations and today the LEGO Foundation announces the five organizations**** that have been selected for the final phase to become partners for two to three years. They are:  

Social Cipher: A video game-based platform that uses the power of story to facilitate social-emotional learning and increase sense of belonging for neurodiverse youth ($1.9M USD grant). 
Kokoro Kids: An early learning platform for children to develop cognitive and emotional skills through play ($2.25M USD grant).
Mom’s Belief: A holistic care provider for neurodivergent children that provides Individual Educational Plans and physical play-based toolkits ($2.03M USD grant).
onebillion: A nonprofit publisher of adaptive literacy and numeracy software for marginalised children (£1.9M GBP grant). 
Little Journey: A mobile app designed to reduce the anxiety experienced by children and families before, during, and after healthcare interactions (£2.09M GBP grant).

The Play for All Accelerator programme builds on the LEGO Foundation’s existing work to support autistic children through programmes promoting learning through play. In 2021, it announced support for a social initiative called Brick-by Brick programme, which helps uplift children and young people who may benefit from social communication support to boost their emotional wellbeing. Set up by Play Included the initiative brings children and young people together to socialize, play and build in groups. 

Click here for more information.

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