An Ilkeston-based autism charity has launched weekly football training sessions designed to encourage children affected by the condition to get involved.
Awareness for Autism (AfA) set up its own kids’ football team last August called AFA Hammers.
The side originally trained sporadically at Rutland Sports Park, in Ilkeston, but because the popularity of the Hammers team has rocketed, the charity recently organised training sessions to take place every Sunday at various venues.
AfA founder John Daly, 39, said: “We started Awareness for Autism a few years ago to help families with autistic children come out of their shells and we have had plenty of success with our charity events and football team since.
“Then many of the children showed some interest in football and we decided to do something for them as well.
“So we started off last August on the grass in Rutland Sports Park, and now we are running a session every Sunday.”
According to John, playing football can give kids with autism the opportunity to socialise with one another and also a higher level of discipline.
John said: “I know from talking to some of the parents that the kids are always looking forward to the Sunday sessions.
“They are absolutely loving it and they even played in a festival a few weeks ago.”
Head coach Daniel Truscott, 35, said teaching kids with autism to play football is not an easy task, but a ‘really enjoyable’ one nonetheless.
He said: “You have to adapt to the children’s abilities and some of them who are very low on the autism spectrum are really hard to train, but we get down to basics and we have a good time and make it fun for them.
“It’s amazing what we are doing here, I am really loving it.”
Daniel has worked with children with special needs for more than 20 years and has three children with autism and ADHD.
According to Daniel, raising autistic children can be very challenging as they can have ‘major meltdowns if you don’t stick to a certain routine’.
Daniel said: “Meltdowns are not nice. It is hard, but you cope with it. Fortunately we have Awareness for Autism which is like a big family and we help each other by getting our children more active and try to bring them out of their shells.”
Susan Severn, 47, knows all about the challenges of raising a child with autism, and is very enthusiastic about the AFA Hammers.
Susan said: “It is hard to find suitable out-of-school activities for our kids to take part in, and having a club like this to come along to is great.
“Here it doesn’t matter if a child doesn’t want to take part or if he kicks off at someone, because we can sit around with families who are going through the same journey.”
Another AFA Hammers’ football session will take place this Sunday at Kirk Hallam School, Ilkeston, and more fun is guaranteed.
n For more information check out the AFA Hammers’ Facebook page www.facebook.com/AFAHammers.