Themed Briefing - April 2021

Autism and Sport 

It is estimated that 700,000 people in the UK have autism – that’s 1 in 100!

To help celebrate Autism Awareness Day taking place this month we feature two speakers who have a real passion and a range of experience in increasing opportunities and making sports more accessible. We also highlight some useful guidance and resources that can be used in practical settings when delivering to people with autism.

The National Autism Society state that people who are on the autism spectrum can experience a range of difficulties such as extreme anxiety, social communication and social interaction challenges and repetitive or restrictive behaviours. However, this does not mean they are unable to participate and should have opportunities to explore and develop sport and physical activity. 

West Ham United Foundation

Community Sport Manager, Austin Huges, talks about how sport can positively impact the lives of people living with autism.

Talking from his own experience, both personally and within his work, he provides some top tips on how to better adapt sports sessions to increases engagement and inclusivity.  

Some simple tips include getting down to their level, being clear and concise with instructions and providing positive body language such as eye contact, a smile or verbal praise. 

Sport is for everyone. Classifying people with autism as young people or adults can help reduce barriers faced by these people. 

Sport for Confidence

Sport for Confidence is a community interest company that works across three leisure centres within Westminster, as well as various sites across Essex. They combine occupational therapists with sports coaches to create opportunities and remove barriers to sport and physical activity.

They promote health and wellbeing by taking a holistic approach where they focus on the physical, psychological, social and environmental needs of each person.

Sport for Confidence support people in a variety of ways by catering for everyone’s needs and preferences through adapting delivery methods and activity types to suit their specific needs.

One of Sport for Confidence’s participants, Marianne, who has autism shares some personal guidance to help activity providers best support people with autism to get active. Explore Marianne’s top tips HERE.

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National Autistic Society

The National Autistic Society are the UK’s leading charity for people with autism and their families and provide a range of guidance and support and also campaign for improved services, rights and opportunities to help improve their lives. 

The National Autistic Society has put together a useful guide full of practical strategies that can be used in sport and physical activity delivery to help cater for people with autism. Access the Autism, sport and physical activity guide HERE.

They also have a page designated to help coaches and other session providers to adapt and deliver sessions effectively.  You will find a range of guidance including how to welcome an autistic player, communicate effectively, increase safety and plan sessions. Find out more by going to their website HERE.

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