An autism friendly football session attracted dozens of parents and their children to Ilkeston.
Awareness For Autism’s new children team, AFA Hammers, trained hard for more than half an hour and scored some good goals in the game that took place at the end.
AFA’s founder, John Daly, 39, from Ilkeston, said the children sessions have become a weekly event.
John said: “We started Awareness for Autism a few years ago to help families with autistic children come out of their shells and we had plenty of success with our charity events and senior football team since.
“Then the children showed interest in football and we decided to do something for them as well.
“So we started off last August in Rutland Sports Park, and now we are running a session every week.”
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 Hammers’ sessions.
“They are absolutely loving it and they even played in a festival a few weeks ago.”
AFA Hammers’ head coach, Daniel Truscott, 35, from Ilkeston, said that teaching children with autism to play football is not an easy task, but a ‘really enjoyable one’ nonetheless.
Daniel said: “You have to adapt to the children’s abilities and some of them who are low on the autism spectrum are really hard to train, but we get down to basics and make it fun for them.
He added: “It’s so hard for some of them to adapt to kicking a ball and running, but now many of them are finding it easier and we are very proud of that.”
Daniel has worked with children with special needs for 20 years and has three children with autism.
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 a big family and we help each other by getting our children more active and bringing them out of their shells.”
Also Susan Severn, 47, from Ilkeston, is facing the challenge of raising a child with autism, and is very enthusiastic about the Hammers.
Susan said: “It is hard to find 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 next Sunday at Kirk Hallam School, Ilkeston, and more fun is guaranteed.
For more information check the AFA Hammers’ official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AFAHammers/.
By Federico Cornetto