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LEGO’s core business is, as we all know, selling toys. But over the years, LEGO has grown beyond that. For instance, after the Dark Ages, LEGO started realizing, that it’s not just children that build with the bricks, but a lot of adults are too. This resulted in themes like Modular buildings and Architecture. When LEGO introduced Mindstorms back in 1998, it was meant to get children interested in programming. But it were the adults (and teens) that picked up this theme, and when they found out the limitations that the first Mindstorms software had, they quickly climbed behind their keyboards and started writing their own custom software. (Luckily LEGO learned from them, and improved the system, cooperating with the creative minds, instead of keeping everything ‘in house’).

So LEGO is for all ages. From Duplo to Creator Expert and Technic Expert, everyone can build and enjoy the bricks. But, as I have personally discovered, LEGO can go beyond simply being enjoyed. In many cases, LEGO can be used as a therapeutic tool. There are for instance many organisation that offer LEGO Therapy for children with autism. For most children with autism, it’s hard to connect and communicate with someone directly. But it turns out, that when they are building, they are much easier to reach. For instance when they are creating a build, and they need a certain brick. This gives them a reason to interact with the therapist or other participant, in order to obtain that brick. And in doing so, they are improving their skills In communication, collaboration and language. This because there is a need to communicated coming from themselves, rather than being ‘forced’ by a therapist or parent.

In my personal life, I’ve discovered the benefits of LEGO as well. Being autistic myself (specifically Asperger), I found the outside world very confusing and in times frightening. I loved creating my own world with my bricks, where I understood all (social) rules, and could find relaxation. When playing alongside other children with LEGO, I found the same benefits as in the LEGO Therapy. All communicating, something that was difficult for me, had a purpose and clear direction, and there for a lot less stressful.
Later on in life, 10 years ago at 25, my autism, combined with PTSD and burnout, I fell in a deep depression, from which I’m still recovering. LEGO has helped me in a great way to get through this period. In my case, I can honestly say, that LEGO has helped me survive some dark periods. I found that not only building, but also activities like sorting are a great way of anxiety-release. My head is a constant chaos of shouting thoughts, making it hard to find focus and serenity. Building and sorting gives me a point to focus on, drowning out all the other thoughts. No anti-depressant has the same direct effect as a good build, or the sight of sorted bins. And it comes without side-effects, besides from being a somewhat expensive. Luckily bricks are reusable (or rebrickable if you will…  ;-). Being an admin here on Rebrickable also helps me a lot. It gives me a sense of purpose (being unemployed is not great for your self-esteem), and brings me in contact with other AFOLs. LEGO is a driving force in social interaction, both here and on Facebook.  I’ve even found a Facebook group with all sorts of people with one thing in common: LEGO Saved My Life!  

During my (ongoing) recovery one organisation has been of great help to me, and I would like to tell you more about them. The organisation is called Unbrickable. The main goal of this organisation is to help and guide youth that encounters problems due to for instance autism and ADD. They provide a save working environment, where they are trained in fields like communication skills, cooperation, standing up for yourself, handling feedback, taking initiative and responsibilities. All this so they have the necessary skills to find a job in the ‘real’ world. I strongly support this mission, because this is a very important strategy to avoid problems in the future, like burnouts and depressions and unemployment. So basically Unbrickable wants to make sure, that all what I have gone through, does not happen to anyone else.
This organisation is self-funded. It consists of a BrickLink and BrickOwl store, and a department that designs custom LEGO sets, and turns company logos into a LEGO version. This creates the employment opportunities for the employees. The work consists of activities like sorting, order picking, design and assembling and/or packaging the custom sets.
I came into the organization looking for a place where I can slowly pick up more activities, to get out of the house into new surroundings, and work with my favourite toy: LEGO! They provided me with a place, and now every Saturday I come in to do some sorting, building and checking of 2nd hand sets on missing parts before they go into the store.

One of the most fun activities for me was helping with the build of 63 identical train wagon designed along with a locomotive for a company called Strukton, that does maintenance work in railroads. The initial design was for the company only, but Unbrickable is currently doing a crowdfunding to make this design into a commercial set. Please check out this project and help with the mission!

19 COMMENTS

  • 1 month ago Lenny (2315) MOC Designer
    thanks for shareing
  • 1 month, 1 week ago Fail18 (3683) MOC Designer
    Great story! Thank you for sharing, I didn't know about Lego being able to achieve these great things.
  • 1 month, 3 weeks ago ProtoXcution (83)
    Thanks for sharing such a moving story. I wish you all the best!
  • 3 months ago thiefunny (47)
    Thank you for the story! I like to sort, too :))) LEGO is really relaxing, destressing, allows to focus, makes mind clear and many many more...! :)
  • 3 months ago Terrakotta (1701)
    Thank you for your story. Best wishes to you,TobyMac.
  • 3 months ago vjwaltherjr (2370)
    Thank you for sharing, Lego has always been a safe place for me as well, and now I share that with my kids. Amazing what a few colorful blocks can do for the world with the help of some good people.
  • 3 months, 1 week ago Koolbrix2018 (405)
    Great inspiring post! Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m just a TFOL, but have come through some very hard times, and I can’t say how much LEGO has helped overcome some big issues in my life. 
    My first LEGO set ever was 3178 which I received as a gift, back in 2010, a few years later I started getting some more sets, and the number of sets I buy has only increased each year! All that to say, however, LEGO has greatly helped me, and hundreds, if not thousands of others too, in many different ways which is amazing.
  • 3 months, 1 week ago ASimpleEgg (203)
    I was diagnosed as autistic at age 21 (which is... still the same age I am now. So pretty recently!) and I'm glad that I got back into LEGO at around the same time. Putting together kits really does just block out all of the other brain noise. It's nice to know other people like me get the same sense of comfort.
  • 3 months, 1 week ago Heaventree (2805) MOC Designer
    I especially like the T-shirt...for those of us who don’t speak Dutch: I don’t need therapy, I just need to build LEGO.
    I must say, I would have never thought LEGO would be an ‘official’ therapy. I myself have been diagnosed with autism at age 37, and have been buying/collecting LEGO again since a few years (I think 60051 was the start again, birthday present). But I have played with LEGO a lot in my youth. The whole attic at my parents house was a big city. In hindsight, that was a nice place to get rid of over-stimulation.
    I myself find the building relaxing, for my wife (also diagnosed, and using this account) the sorting helps.
  • 3 months, 1 week ago clawp1995 (1486)
    From pain comes purpose.
    If you look at the yearly statistics you are gonna see all the people you have touched along the time and helped. Allot of people have found an escape from an outside hell into this website and got a glimpse of the heaven,  through playing with some memories or channelings his/hers creation into something beautiful. I really hope you gonna recover and feel good about yourself after you gonna see how many persons with or without problems you helped and made their life better.

    Sorry for my bad English skills...
  • 3 months, 1 week ago Brickfan (6468) MOC Designer
    Thank you for posting this story :)
    I am glad that you have found a great way to enjoy Lego and benefit your own health :) The main problem I have is having a sore bottom from sitting on a chair or stool when trying to design something. :)
    Unbrickable sounds like a great organisation too :)
    well done you!
    Brian
  • 3 months, 1 week ago Nickram (366)
    Great article. I don't have any medical issues as such, but it's great for destressing and relaxing in general.
  • 3 months, 1 week ago monsted (329)
    I suffer from severe anxiety and building Lego models has helped me through some tough times, too. It helps me focus on something other than the anxiety, much better than other distractions i've tried.
  • 3 months, 1 week ago 911momo (30837) MOC Designer
    A touching story, thanks for sharing such a moving story.  Thanks for sharing
  • 3 months, 1 week ago Shandyman (4141)
    WoW!! An excellent, moving story, good on yer, don't let them bricks grind you down!! Respect!!
  • 3 months, 1 week ago Simon (128334) Inventory Admin ADMIN
    A fantastic story, my friend. It takes great courage to publicly show you are only human, and to admit your problems and how you coped with them. A truly inspiring tale!

    Take care,
    Simon
    • 3 months, 1 week ago BrickKortzen (2208)
      I agree with Simon,
      thank you very much for sharing this story, TobyMac!
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