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Child’s play….or social skills teaching? Yes for both. It looks like kids just building with Lego robotics, but what you’re not seeing is how these children are building friendships and learning the unwritten rules of relationships that can be tougher for some to master.

“Many of our kids don’t get invited on playdates, don’t get invited to birthday parties because they are socially awkward,” said Sonia Marshall-Brown. “So what we are trying to do is create meaningful relationships so they can have a simple thing like a friendship.”

Sonia Marshall Brown is a mom of two who conceived of this Lego robotics program to fill the social and emotional gaps faced by many kids with autism and ADHD. While much of any school’s attention is focused on the academics children may not succeed without the social piece, according to Principal Anthony DiCarlo.

“We have to educate the whole child & it brings the real world problems to classroom in life you have to problem solve, you have to do,” DiCarlo said.

This Lego robotics class teams children with developmental challenges with typically developing students. With the help of three teachers, they work together on a project, but learn so much more.

“I call it exploratory play,” said Liza Tuck, a mother with a student in the class. “He has learned how to make eye contact,take turns, be patient, wait”

Liza says her son Cyrus has shown incredible improvements in just nine weeks of building with the plastic bricks.

Cyrus hadn’t quite been able to master those skills even with six years of extra services. The Lego robotics program, funded by Marshall-Brown’s school charity group, has worked with 150 kids in New Rochelle. Parents of typically developing children say the value is there for all kids.

“He was communicating and paying attention in class more and with teachers and coming home and talking about different friends and no more tears after school anymore,” said Margaret Sandoval , a mother.

The parents at Trinity Elementary say these have been some of the toughest skills for their kids to master, but see they’re now growing their friendships along with their ability to learn.

For more on the Lego robotics program in New Rochelle schools, check out It Takes a Village to Educate a Child.