Lego Life

As a child I loved Lego and it’s younger sibling Duplo. I was a proud member of the Lego Club – in fact 35 years on I still have my membership badge!

A photo of a circular, iron on Lego Club patch from around 1985 - the patch features a chunky vehicle with tubes coming from it and Lego Club written in Capital letters in an assertive font. In the background of the photo are colourful dulplo blocks.

And I still love it, but as a dyspraxic with Tourettes, the fine motor control required for more grown up Lego projects has always been in scarce supply for me. That’s before we get to my powerful impulse to throw any new creation across the room!

This is a digital drawing of a shape constructed by Duplo. The Duplo blocks are a deep fuschia pink colour and the background looks like a beach scene, with a golden sandy strip along the bottom, a dark blue sea behind and a light blue sky.

Because of this I often preferred Duplo, which is made with younger children in mind. A couple of years ago I used some Duplo to represent the shapes of my pain over the course of a week. These block sculptures inspired a set of drawings too.

When I was looking for Christmas presents for my godson Leo at the end of last year I came across Lego Mario, a set that brings the video game to life in an exciting way: you make worlds for an electronic Mario to explore.

A photo of a colourful world made of lego. A. Lego Mario figure sits at the centre of his multi level world.

This seemed like a perfect gift for Leo, so I got him the starter kit… and one for myself (for research purposes!) Since then I’ve built and rebuilt worlds for Mario many times, and Leo and I discuss them on Zoom. Bean also loves Lego Mario and frequently calls me just to speak to him.

My relationship with Lego is a good example of the complexities and contradictions my body and brain can present. For example:

• I love making things out of Lego, but I find the small movements required intensely frustrating

• Playing with Lego occupies my brain and can temporarily reduce my tics, but when I complete something, my impulsive tics sometimes mean I destroy it

• Playing with Lego helps me feel relaxed, but I often lose track of time, get overtired and then behave erratically afterwards

These complexities aren’t a reason not to build things, but they do add layers of complexity that I have to negotiate. The fact that I keep returning to the brick is a testament to how compelling I find it.

I think non-disabled people sometimes assume that these extra layers of complexity automatically reduce how enjoyable the activity is.

While this is occasionally true, it generally isn’t. I know I might involuntarily smash a Lego creation as soon I’ve made it, cover myself in soup, overreact during a nail-biting mystery or find using an airhorn over-stimulating, but that doesn’t spoil my enjoyment of these things – it’s just part of my experience of them.

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