I reported this time last year on the achievement of Samantha Silver, the parent of an autistic boy in Richmond who through sheer desperation had got together with other parents to set up a support group and with the help of the Brentford FC Community Sports Trust introduced their autistic children to the joys of team sport.
The scheme they set up, On the Ball, a programme of sport and parent support for families whose children have social communication needs, is available to other boroughs outside Richmond and starts again in April, offering free places. Families who have been involved say that the training has made a massive difference to their child, family life at home and the way the child copes at school. The programme is rated as ‘Outstanding’ by Richmond Adult Community College.
On the Ball aim to develop groups of children aged 5-11 who have similar needs so that peer groups are established that support families to have fun, enjoy sport and learn together.
If you think your child might benefit or you know someone who might, go to On the Ball 2018 Sign Up or for more information ring the parent charity Action-attainment Ltd on 0208 392 9946
There is also a new Action Learning Group for parents of children with social communication needs is starting this month with six Thursday evening meetings monthly, between February and July. The first free introductory workshop is on 8th February at Richmond AID, 4 Waldegrave Rd, TW11 8HT.
At Brentford FC Community Sports Trust’s thirtieth anniversary bash last year, Samantha described how on their first meeting the coach brought a sack of balls and laid out cones for the kids to weave in and out of. One child promptly disappeared up a tree while her own son carefully collected up all the cones into a nicely ordered pile. The default position for an autistic child when faced with the anxiety of something as socially daunting as team sport is apparently to lie on the ground with their arms over their head in a foetal position.
Even the most dedicated, specially trained coach, as theirs was, might have been forgiven for having second thoughts. He didn’t. She recounted how slowly over the years the children, now young people, have gained in confidence, to the point where they actively enjoy the sessions. She explained also how the training had affected their behaviour at home and taught the parents a thing or two which had contributed to a calmer, more positive atmosphere both at home and at school. She also told me afterwards how, heartbreakingly, while this works with younger children, by the time they get to secondary school their anxiety is too great to overcome with this sort of coaching. The trick is to get to the children young, but if they do, the results are by all accounts amazing.