Business partner: The National Autistic Society and Lego

Lego and the National Autistic Society might appear to be random partners, but there is a sound reason for their link. Research has indicated that children with autism like Lego - its logical, structured character means they enjoy playing with it.

The Autism Research Centre in Cambridge has begun a research project designed to exploit Lego's appeal and help develop social skills in children with autism, encouraging them to collaborate in building models. Lego was notified of the project and the company saw an opportunity for it to give some help to the society.

The year-long partnership has kicked off with the donation of Lego products to each of the charity's six schools, and fundraising events are expected to follow.

According to Emma Bolton, senior corporate partnerships manager at the society, the partnership is a perfect fit. "There was a tangible reason why Lego should support us," she says. "The partnership increases understanding and encourages employees to get involved, because it's clear why we are working together."

Close to 600,000 people in the UK have autism, but the society says that awareness and understanding of the condition is still quite low. As part of the association with Lego, it will be holding awareness days for the company's employees.

The link-up with Lego is not the first partnership the society has entered into because of the enthusiasms of its beneficiary group. A partnership was also formed with Hit Entertainment, which owns the brand licence for Thomas the Tank Engine. The Lego partnership has been signed for one year, but could well endure if the results of the Cambridge research, expected later this year, confirm the therapeutic benefits of Lego.

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