Spreading the love of the game

Soccer coach Ghalib Solomon, from Apex Football School, tells Autism Connect Learning

Soccer coaches are sharing their love for the game with children who have autism.

Apex Football School, a non-profit organisation founded by internationally accredited coach Ruan Meyer passed the soccer ball to pupils of Autism Connect Learning Centre, a non-profit and community mental health facility affiliated to the Department of Health, in Westridge, on Monday October 2.

Autism is an umbrella term used to describe a group of complex disorders of brain development.

It affects the way people see the world and respond to stimuli, such as sound, light, touch, space, smell, taste, in it.

Autism is also known as a social communication disorder and affects four major areas of development, namely language and communication, social interaction, thinking and behaviour and sensory processing.

With the help of sponsors, the football school will be facilitating sporting activities with pupils.

“We want to expose everyone to this beautiful game. No discrimination,” said Ruan.

He has a UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) B licence and wants to give every child a shot at world class soccer coaching.

His colleague Ghalib Solomon, said they were treading uncharted waters working with autistic children, but no one should be excluded from the game.

“We will be adapting the game to involve the pupils and will be relying on the facilitators to guide us with interacting,” he said.

Ghalib, who has a SAFA (South African Football Association) D grassroots level soccer coaching qualification, said they wanted to promote physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.

“We aim to build a solid foundation, that is not only fun but supports personal development, through participating in a sport like soccer,” he said.

Autism Connect founder and centre manager Nicolette Ripepi said sporting codes were generally “no go” zones for children with disabilities, but they would like to expose their children to sport.

“’We don’t deal with special needs,’ is the usual response,” she said.

“We want to integrate sport into our programme, try different ways of reaching out to our pupils,” she said.

She said the centre could help the coaches with their method of coaching to assist autistic children.

“This is a great opportunity to get the children outdoors, moving and encourage a healthy lifestyle,” she said.