Health On the ball: coaches learn how to help kids with Autism

On the ball: coaches learn how to help kids with Autism

Sports coaches can play a big role in the life of kids.

That’s why researchers at the University of South Australia are trying to help sports coaches to effectively communicate with students who have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Through the university program, coaches learned how to use plain language, visual cue cards and physical demonstrations to teach sport skills, rather than complex verbal instructions, which people with the disorder sometimes find difficult to understand.

And the program has been a runaway success.

“Instead of sports-specific lingo, like ‘Throw the cricket ball at the stumps’, we’re suggesting coaches use literal words, like ‘Throw the ball at the three sticks’,” says co-researcher Dr Richard McGrath.

“[It] is not only helping children build their skills in climbing, jumping, running and balancing, but importantly it’s also helping them build friendships, which is just beautiful,” says Ginny Pyatt at Modbury Special School in Adelaide, which hosted a trial of the program involving more than 50 children with autism.

Parents and teachers have also reported vast improvements in concentration, interest in new experiences, and general calmness among the participating students, says researcher Emma Milanese.

Learning these skills at a young age will make life easier for the participants as they transition into adulthood, says Pyatt.

“This program has given these children a sense of normalcy, an opportunity to have fun with their peers, and far-improved interpersonal skills, all which will hold them in good stead for the future,” she says.

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