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Making Sports Inclusive for Autistic Individuals

18 September 2023

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Australian professional football club, Western Sydney Wanderers, works with Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) to make soccer autism friendly for the next generation of players. Aspect's Autism-Friendly team has proudly collaborated with the Western Sydney Wanderers to assess their autism-specific soccer clinic earlier this year. This partnership aims to create an inclusive sporting environment tailored to the unique needs of children on the autism spectrum.

Through this initiative, both organisations are committed to fostering self-confidence, skill development and a sense of community for Autistic children, making sports more accessible and enjoyable for all.

Physical Activity for Autistic People: The Benefits and Barriers

Physical activity and exercise have many benefits for Autistic people, including improved physical health, mental well-being and social connection. However, sometimes there are barriers that prevent Autistic people from participating in group sports.

Aspect believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of physical activity, regardless of their neurodiversity. We are working to break down the barriers and make group sports and physical activities more accessible for Autistic people. We are doing this by working with community partners to create autism-friendly programs, providing training to coaches and other professionals on how to support Autistic people in physical activity, and raising awareness of the importance of physical activity for Autistic people.

Collaborations in the Community

Some of our partners we’ve worked with who are helping us to make physical activity more accessible for autistic people include:

  • Western Sydney Wanderers: Collaborating with Aspect to create structured and supported sessions like the Wanderers Five School Holidays Clinic, for children on the autism spectrum aged 5 to 12
  • Sydney Dance Company: Bringing the joy of dance to Autistic individuals through their autism-friendly dance classes.
  • Belgravia Leisure: Operating aquatic centres in Sydney that are safe and welcoming for Autistic people to participate in water-based activities.
  • Parkrun: Promoting inclusive running events that embrace Autistic participants of all abilities.
  • Power Living Yoga: Offering yoga sessions tailored to the needs of Autistic individuals.
  • NSW Basketball: Fostering a love of basketball and team sports among Autistic people.
  • Surf Life Saving Australia: Ensuring that Autistic individuals can enjoy our beautiful beaches safely.

Research to highlight challenges and opportunities

In addition to collaborating with community partners, the Autism Friendly team is working with the Aspect Research Centre for Autism Practice (ARCAP) to investigate the challenges Autistic individuals encounter when it comes to engaging in organised sports and exercise. They are also researching the strategies Autistic people use to overcome these obstacles. Insights from this study will be used by Autism Friendly to help sporting organisations and groups create more effective strategies for enabling Autistic individuals to enjoy the benefits of sports and physical activity. We look forward to sharing our research findings with the wider community later this year and working towards creating a more inclusive and accessible world for Autistic people.

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