Football Coaching for Kids on the Autistic Spectrum Can Be Done

True BlueCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2011

Autism and Soccer are compatible
Autism and Soccer are compatible

As a parent of five kids, all of whom are football mad, I spend many an hour standing in rain soaked, muddy fields watching the under-sevens, under-eights or whichever team one of my kids is playing in at the time.

At the moment, I also attend at least two nights indoor training for two of my boys.

In the summer, my youngest kid and only daughter will join the development squad of the local team.

This development squad caters for kids under the age of seven.

So by next season, I will be fitting in three different teams and games into my schedule.

But I wish it was four.

You see, my 11-year-old is a football nut. He loves stats, he loves collecting, he loves reading about football, he loves the PS2 and PS3 FIFA games, he loves watching footie on tele'. 

He also loves to play.

At school, he always has a ball at his feet at playtime.

He would dearly love to play in the school team, but isn't old enough yet. He would snap up the chance to join a team and play as part of a team, but he can't.

You see, he has been living with autism all his life and he learns differently.

As parents, we are aware of his limitations and the fact that he could not fit into a mainstream team, we tried it and it went badly.

But all he wants to do is play football and it is so frustrating for him. As he has grown older, he has become more aware of his own limitations and knows that he is not yet ready for a "normal" team coach.

In truth, it wouldn't be fair on the other members of the team as my son would need specific coaching just as he receives specific teaching at his specialist school.

So, being a motivated and loving dad (and one who happens to teach), I am taking my football coaching badges, immersing myself in youth coaching at every opportunity and am working with a number of schools and charities to develop a new approach to coaching, one that is ASD friendly.

Although it is early days, the signs are good.

My son and his school friends may well have heads like fifty pence pieces and the touch of a rhino, but the smiles on their faces tell me all I need to know in terms of feedback.

I doubt if we will discover the new Messi, but I know that many of them are already discovering teamwork in the truest sense and that is an invaluable discovery.

Coaching a kid with a diagnosis of autism isn't impossible—difficult at times, yes, but not impossible.

The next step is to find a competitive team for him to be part of.

Or, of course, set one up ourselves.

After all, how hard can that be!

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