Asperger syndrome is a form of autism, which affects the way a person communicates and relates to others. People with Asperger syndrome do not usually have the accompanying learning disabilities associated with autism and, in fact, are often of average or above average intelligence. However, individuals do have difficulty with communication and social relationships, which can result in problems at school.
The purpose of the ‘Awesome Hotspur’ project – a name the young participants chose themselves – has been to deliver football and physical activity training to children, aged 7-12 years, with high functioning autism and Asperger’s. As well as picking up new football skills without the pressure of a school environment, the weekly coaching sessions have helped participants forge new friendships, show greater self-confidence and develop improved social skills.
Christina Heidensohn, a parent from Haringey Autism, was very supportive of the project: “This proves that football can play a vital social role in the lives of our children with AS. These fantastic sessions enable them to integrate much more fully with their peers than at school, helping them to develop both ball skills and team skills.
Although many of the children are often reluctant school attendees, they all look forward to attending each week, so they can participate in the games with friends and staff.”
Taking place at the White Hart Lane Community Sports Centre – a facility funded through the Football Foundation and Barclays’ Spaces for Sports Scheme – the project has been an innovative collaboration between Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, Haringey Autism, and the Haringey Mencap LTD Active London Project, funded by Sport England.
As part of Tottenham Hotspur Foundation's work with people from wide-ranging backgrounds, the Club is involved in a number of projects for people with learning difficulties and disabilities. One such example is a football coaching project for children with Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism (AS).