Foundation capital

The LEGO Foundation announces $20 million to support neurodivergent children

The LEGO Foundation has announced that it will invest $20 million to spur innovation for neurodivergent children. The new program called Play for All is designed to celebrate the strengths of neurodivergent children and help ensure that all children have the right to play, learn and thrive.

The LEGO Foundation invests $20 million to catalyze innovation for neurodivergent children

The LEGO Foundation is launching a new accelerator program – Play for All – designed to celebrate the strengths of neurodivergent children and help ensure that all children have the right to play, learn and thrive.

Denmark, Billund, April 07, 2022 – To mark Autism Acceptance Month, The LEGO Foundation announces the launch of a new Accelerator Grant: capital-free funding and a fixed-term mentorship program for social enterprises , businesses, and organizations that want to support children and autistic children with ADHD with play-based learning.

“When neurodivergent children are understood, valued and empowered, everyone benefits from their important and often extraordinary contributions,” notes Dr. Maureen Dunne, Senior Advisor and Special Educational Needs and Disability Expert for the Play for All Accelerator. “Neurodivergent inventors, scientists, and artists have reshaped entire industries. I am delighted that The LEGO Foundation is committed to investing in reimagining the world of play and learning so that innovators, experts and those with lived experience, together, can build a future that supports full participation. neurodivergent children in society.

It is widely recognized that resources and services to support neurodiversity have been underfunded around the world and educational solutions and innovation are lacking. Investments to date have largely focused on improving understanding of causes and diagnosis, and education technology is primarily tailored to neurodivergent children, not developed for them. This has created a funding gap between scientific research and innovation, which means that investment is missing some of the most critical and basic needs of neurodivergent children. Further investment is needed to encourage innovators to create products, services and platforms that uplift every neurodivergent child and the families and schools that support them. As such, the Play for All Accelerator hopes to discover, inspire and develop innovations that can help close this gap, address the lack of playful learning experiences in schools, homes and communities and provide all children with an equal opportunity to practice the skills necessary to thrive. in the 21st century.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, suffer from some form of disability, and that one in 160 children is diagnosed with autism. Global estimates also suggest that 5% of the world’s population suffers from ADHD (diagnosed and undiagnosed).

“We believe that more neurodivergent children should experience the power of believing ‘I can,’ says Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of the LEGO Foundation. “By opening the Play for All Accelerator to organizations located anywhere in the world, those who benefit from it can become catalysts for future innovations.Working with partners, we aim to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity and to fight diagnostic stigma around the world. account, play helps children find and develop their strengths by giving them the best possible chance to make friends, study in school and thrive in life”.

The power of learning through play for this group of children is evident in the successful work of LEGO Foundation partner Play Include™. Launched last year, the Brick-by-Brick™ program is designed to empower children to understand how their brains are wired to communicate rather than forcing them to present or communicate in neurotypical ways. Studies based on the results of pilot research have shown how children with autism and children with ADHD can benefit from fun, child-led activities that focus on learning through play. It is this success that is behind the Play for All accelerator.

How it works
The Play for All Accelerator, whose first cohort of organizations is set to launch in April 2022, will provide up to $20 million in funding to 25 social enterprises, organizations and/or social enterprises around the world. The inaugural program runs until February 2023 and will see participants progress through a three-phase selection process, with funding, mentorship and play-learning expertise provided at each stage. To advance to Stage 2, organizations will need to pitch to a panel including the LEGO Foundation, venture capitalists and paid neurodivergent advisors and children. 12 successful applicants will move on to the final application stage where ideas will be tested and plans finalized. Depending on the results, up to five organizations will become long-term partners of the LEGO Foundation; receive funding to develop their ideas and innovations and generate evidence to benefit more neurodivergent children around the world. The LEGO Foundation encourages social enterprises, businesses and organizations with an existing focus, or aiming to expand into more inclusive products/services for neurodivergent children, to express their interest in joining the next cohort via their website.

Dr Gina Gómez de la Cuesta, Clinical Psychologist, Founder and Director of Play Include, said: “The impact of this type of funding and expertise on organizations like ours and the children we serve cannot be underestimated. -valued. It is common for children with autism and children with ADHD to have issues with self-esteem and self-confidence, often driven by misconceptions about neurodiversity in society. By applying play-based learning specifically designed for the practical needs of our community, neurodivergent children are encouraged to strengthen their skills in collaboration, communication, and problem-solving. It also provides an opportunity for schools to foster confidence in difference and move towards fundamental change needed for a more inclusive world that celebrates and enables our uniqueness.

More details on the Play for All Accelerator and how to register for future cohorts, can be found at https://learningthroughplay.com/play-for-all