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UK Coaching Team
Rapport Building and Communicating Supporting Specific Needs

The Hidden Condition – A Coach’s Guide to Autism

Advice for coaches on the challenges people with autism face when taking part in physical activity and sport. UK Coaching’s Blake Richardson spoke to Amy Webster – who is responsible for developing and delivering autism awareness training for activity leaders – for examples of coaching styles and methods that can be easily adapted to accommodate individual needs

Picture the scene. An incensed coach glares at one of her players, who is steadfastly refusing to put on a yellow bib. As the tone of the coach becomes increasingly insistent, so the player becomes increasingly distressed. Everyone stops what they are doing and falls silent.

It seems neither person is going to back down, and a palpable impasse is reached. Nervous glances are exchanged as parents slowly begin to filter their way pitch-side.

How on earth did this most innocuous of situations degenerate so rapidly into a tirade, tantrum and now tears?

Just a few minutes earlier, the coach had divided the group into two equal teams ready for a short-sided game to round off what had been an enjoyable, incident-free session.

But unbeknown to the coach, the ‘disruptive’ player in question is on the autism spectrum and is hypersensitive to touch.

For them, wearing a bib feels like having a cheese grater rubbing against their skin.

But how on earth was the coach supposed to have known that?

This hypothetical scenario illustrates one type of sensory challenge that some people on the autism spectrum face.

It also emphasises the lack of understanding of autism in our society.

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UK Coaching Team