Can playing footy help kids with autism?

AllPlay Footy website
The new AllPlay Footy website
April 14, 2018
Ben Tudhope
Ben Tudhope, Australia’s youngest winter Paralympian
July 16, 2018

According to a recent Deakin study published in the Journal of Motor Learning and Development, simple adaptations to the Auskick program can encourage children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to join in and thus experience the benefits of sport.

This adapted program is part of Deakin’s AllPlay initiative, which strives to open up the world of sports to kids of all abilities by changing the structures in place – and not the child.

Coaches incorporated a variety of changes to their sessions such as using visual schedules, shortening activity time, and allowing children to do more repetitions for learning new skills.

Jodie Donald and her son Lucas have found that the program works for their family. “He’s a lot more social,” she said in an ABC report on the program. “He’s able to interact better with children his own age.” Lucas is now playing junior footy for his local team.


Parents benefit from Auskick too

During the 11-week NAB AFL Auskick program, parents said being part of the program was good for them too.

In some mainstream organised sports programs there is a lack of tolerance for unusual behaviour by children, making the adapted Auskick program something to look forward to on the weekends, rather than feared or avoided.

“Just saying hello and having a bit of a chat was really nice,” said one parent. “No one had to explain anything to each other.”

It was also a good opportunity for fathers to be involved in their child’s activities, in a life where early intervention and therapy is often a mother’s domain.


Have you signed up for Auskick?

Auskick season is coming up. If you have a child with ASD or any other developmental delay, you can join in too.

The AllPlay Footy website is Australia’s first digital resource of its kind, packed with all kinds of evidence-based resources from coaching tips to videos of your favourite AFL players. The footy stories are a popular tool for teaching children how to handle tricky situations like making new friends, or getting frustrated or angry.

If you’re not sure which club to join, use the footy directory to find an inclusive centre near you.