Western Sydney Wanderers demonstrate inclusiveness: New Program for kids on the Autism Spectrum

A collaboration between the Western Sydney Wanderers football club and Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) has led to the creation of a specially designed football clinic for children in Sydney’s western suburbs, who are on the autism spectrum.

Aspect’s Autism Friendly team, who works with organisations to create programs and spaces that consider the needs of Autistic individuals, partnered with Western Sydney Wanderers to help develop an autism-specific football clinic that caters to the specific requirements of Autistic children.

The program, in its first year, has been designed for children aged 5-12 years and will run during the upcoming school holiday period.

Tom Tutton, Executive Manager, Aspect Practice said the collaboration with an iconic community sports club has been extremely rewarding.

“We applaud the team at Western Sydney Wanderers for initiating an inclusive program so that all children can participate in sporting endeavours, in an environment that works for them,” said Mr Tutton.

“Together, we have developed a soccer clinic that will foster self-confidence, skill development and importantly, provide a sense of community. The coaches are experienced in working with Autistic children and the environment and program has been assessed to ensure it will deliver an engaging experience for children on the autism spectrum, and their families.

“Sensory supports such as no whistle are in place along with a structured session and teaching approach and a visual timetable for increased predictability,” said Mr Tutton.

More than 7,000 people in Western Sydney are officially diagnosed as Autistic and one of the key challenges faced by many families is accessing leisure and social activities that cater to their unique needs.

Danny Egarchos, Community Manager at Western Sydney Wanderers said it is gratifying to provide access to the wonderful game of soccer to all children in the community.

“As a local club, it is important that we ensure all members of our community – particularly our younger generation – can participate in soccer, and this means adapting programs to ensure inclusivity,” said Mr Egarchos.

“We are proud to work with Aspect’s Autism Friendly team and create a soccer clinic that is accessible for children on the autism spectrum. This means, children can take breaks during the clinic when required and there will be a visual story provided ahead of the clinic to help with preparation and knowing what to expect on the day. And most importantly, the focus will be on having fun.”

The Western Sydney Wanderers Holiday Clinic for Autistic children aged 5-12 will run on 29th September 2023 at Wanderers Football Park, Rooty Hill. Registrations are now open.

The initiative is funded by the NDIS ILC grant and is part of the Hidden Disability Sunflower program, which supports people with hidden disabilities such as autism. An internationally recognised sunflower lanyard can be worn, to discreetly indicate additional time, support or understanding is required, particularly beneficial in locations such as airports, public transport, sport stadiums and other public places.