Even though group sports won’t be an instant favourite for your kid, there’s no harm in trying. When he was in the Special Unit of his school, Christos was popular with the rest of the kids (when he was pulling their hair and throwing their bag around). Schools need to incorporate kids with special need in group sports. Not only is it physically beneficial but it encourages them to socialise. If they just want to sit and watch, I would take that as a win. At least they’re watching other kids instead of sinking into their universe.
I read last year that free football sessions for adults with autism and Asperger’s syndrome were being offered at Hertfordshire Sports Village in Hatfield. The project has been organised by the National Autistic Society to encourage people living with the condition to get out and socialise. More recently pop stars, actors and football legends participated in a charity football match in May to will raise money for three charities – the Foxes Foundation, Irish Autism Action and another autism charity, the UK Heart and Minds Challenge.
Active Autism was established in 2008 and provides football activity to young people with autism between the ages of 5-16. The Active Autism program provides regular weekend activity for young people with Autism and has seen increased levels of confidence, social interaction, concentration and health in the participants since its foundation. The project has seen the creation of the “Fulham Autistic Boys” team (FAB) – i love this – who participate monthly in the Surrey Primary League, a disability specific league delivered by the Surrey FA. FAB currently runs two sides, an under 12’s team and an under 16’s, which provide additional experiences to the young people, including teamwork, leadership and communication.
It all starts from you, from their family. Christos tried all kinds of sports, he never made any teams because he’s temperamental and he basically just wants someone to fetch for him – usually dad. But at least he tried, he was around kids who learned to include him, they called out his name and waved him over even though they knew what was coming. For kids with high-functioning autism it might be easier to slide into group sports. Some can retain chunks of information about the sport and facts which can be impressive both on and off the field. Some find that the jumping, running, kicking, grass or field satisfies their sensory deprivation. No two kids on the spectrum will react to sports in the same way, and the only way you can find out if you’ve got a Ronaldo, a fan or a bystander is to try; take risks.