Sumer camps and autism

Summer is a time for summer camps for kids, and the first week is about to end for those at the Integrated Football Academy. We have a great group of 20 boys with intellectual disabilities, aged 10 to 20 years old. A well-organized summer camp led by experienced instructors and psychologists, supported by a doctor and a speech therapist, represents an intense and emotionally challenging experience.

It’s not just the heat that could affect their physical and mental state, making them experience a level of fatigue they have never felt before. Normally, the boys play football and basketball from 8:30 AM to 12:15 PM, after which they play board games until the camp concludes at 1:00 PM. During this time, there are numerous breaks for drinking, resting, and eating. We often wonder how it is possible that young people with autism, who do not train for more than 2-3 hours a week during the year, manage to train for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week.

This result says a lot about how developed their physical and mental resilience is. Their good mood is proof that this commitment is appropriate for them. Playing contact team sports like football and basketball, they could commit fouls, react aggressively towards others, or sit on the bench due to excessive fatigue. However, these situations do not arise; the boys collaborate. It is true that occasionally someone gets angry over a wrong pass or a mistake, but they have been taught to avoid these behaviors and to apologize those rare times they are not correct.

These boys train with us all year round, and this helps guide them in this new experience. New, because in two weeks they train for 50 hours, which corresponds to the total hours spent during the sports year from October to June.

Boys with autism do not learn on their own; the team that guides them works with them all year and is primarily responsible for their way of experiencing the summer camp and the sporting and psychological learning they show on the field. Knowing them means understanding what they can do and what situations might cause them to have a crisis; this is, in a nutshell, the main role played by the team. This is one of the secrets why now, at the summer camp, they manage to be active for such a long and entirely new period for them.

Finally, a 20-year-old boy, with us for 9 years, is doing an internship during these two weeks to become an assistant instructor, a role that in the future could allow him to turn this current commitment into a job.

Now we are moving forward to organize the next sports season, the 10th year of our activity in the field of intellectual disability.

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