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Albion in the Community is delighted to support World Autism Awareness Day, which takes place today (Monday).

In 2017 AITC launched a new football session for people with autism that takes place on alternate Sundays at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre in Lancing and is providing a growing number of people with the chance to play the sport they love.

Zachary Nye (pictured above at a session in 2017) is a regular at the session but had never played football before...

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Football session for people with autism proving popular and having real impact

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Albion in the Community is delighted to support World Autism Awareness Day, which takes place today (Monday).

In 2017 AITC launched a new football session for people with autism that takes place on alternate Sundays at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre in Lancing and is providing a growing number of people with the chance to play the sport they love.

Zachary Nye (pictured above at a session in 2017) is a regular at the session but had never played football before joining in with AITC. As his mum Sasha explained, the charity has had an extremely positive impact on him: “When he went to the first session he found joining in quite difficult so he would only do some one-to-one work. The coaches were very good at letting him work his way round.

“Now he plays with boys of his own age and has made lots of friends. He loves all the coaches and they know him by first name and nickname basis too; he loves all that and he feels really accepted, which is great.”

Players at the session are usually splits into smaller groups, based on ability and age. There is also a free play zone and AITC makes sure its player-to-coach ratio is high. Typically there will be around five coaches at a session attended by 20 players.

The session takes place inside the dome at Brighton & Hove Albion’s training ground, which provides AITC with the perfect environment. There are minimal outside distractions, limited pitch markings compared to what would be found on a typical leisure centre sports court, a viewing area for parents and coaches can control the temperature and lighting.

That location and the experience of AITC’s coaches means the players can concentrate on the most important part of the session – having fun and developing new skills.

It is certainly something Zachary relishes. “He loves the training sessions,” explained his mum. “Zachary finds social situations quite difficult and it can be hard for him to try new things. He can get quite anxious about new things and takes some time with them; language wise things have to be quite precise and he has to have a lot of planning and reassurance.

“He feels so safe, happy and secure at the AITC session that he doesn’t need support from us. If I was to introduce something else to him he might want me to stay – but at the football he can’t wait to get rid of me!”

And it has had another positive effect. Zachary hadn’t felt confident enough to visit the Amex to watch the Albion but since working with AITC he has been able to join his family in the stands cheering on the Seagulls.

For information on AITC’s session for people with autism, or other sessions for people with a disability, email: disability@albioninthecommunity.org.uk.