Changing Sport for Young People with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Changing Sport for Young People with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Phoebe's brother George was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when they were both young. Big into her basketball, Phoebe wanted George to play but found that many of the sports and activities he tried weren't inclusive. She sought to change that, for George and for others with ASD in their local community.

My brother was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was four-and-a-half years old. I was six-and-a-half. Obviously, being so young I couldn’t quite comprehend what this meant, but mum and dad told me that his brain just works differently to mine. George has high functioning autism, meaning he can speak, read and write without much difficulty, but struggles in social interaction.

It was hard for George to find something he loved

As George got older and started school and extracurricular activities such as sports, it became harder for him. Whether it was other kids teasing him about his personality at school or not being supported properly in sporting programs, it was difficult for him to find something he loved.

I’ve played basketball for almost eight years now and coached for three years, so I was ecstatic when he joined a basketball team in prep. He was in a mixed team with some of the kids in his class and coached by one of the parents.

His first game came along and I was definitely the most excited for it. During the game, if he wasn’t passed to, had the ball stolen off him or had been pulled up for travelling, he ran off the court in tears. I was around nine years old and couldn’t understand why he did that. Unfortunately, that was the end of basketball for George. I think I was more devastated than he was, as I would have loved to play with him after school. 

For the next eight years, George went on to try just about every sport offered in our area, from swimming to gymnastics and cricket to tennis, yet has never stuck to one for more than a year due to the lack of support from coaches. 

This issue in sporting programs never really came to me until about 18 months ago, when I thought back to when George played basketball, and how he may have stuck with it if the right support was provided. I approached my local basketball club and pitched the idea of a basketball program specifically for youth with ASD. 

In July 2019, Ausome Hoops ran for the first time

A team of basketball coaches, teachers’ aides and junior basketball players assisted in delivering this one-of-a-kind program to kids on the Mornington Peninsula. Ausome Hoops not only taught the children basketball skills but provided the right support that many mainstream programs lack. 

Sport and physical activity are so important to have in a child’s life. It provides them with social and teamwork skills that can help them in the future.

The biggest accomplishment that came out of Ausome Hoops was seeing the kids interact with each other in such a positive way. Not only was it fantastic to see the children socialising, but it gave the parents a chance to connect with each other on things they have in common, which otherwise may not have been possible.

A comment from a parent after the first camp ever has played over and over in my head since.

“Phoebe and her team should be so proud of what has been achieved here. Look around at all the smiling faces of these beautiful kids.”

This comment has stuck with me as it highlights how important Ausome Hoops is to the children, parents and wider community. 

I believe there needs to be more sports programs designed for children with ASD offered around the country. Ausome Hoops is hoping to encourage other sporting clubs to start up these programs.