Tag Archive for 'autismo'

Football Together and autism: The new sport season

The activities of our “Calcio Insieme” project began this week. We are now in our seventh year of activity and certainly thinking back to the first training sessions of 2015 brings to mind the fear we had in starting this program.Although we had prepared with a 32-hour training period, we were quite concerned about the responsibility we had taken on with families and these young people with autism. In addition, we had also made it our goal to document not only the activity we had done but also the motor and psychological improvements. The question we asked ourselves most frequently was: will they improve through sporting activity or are two hours a week just a drop of water in the desert represented by their limitations.

The work done in recent years has shown that the planned path was correct and despite the obvious difficulties we have come to work with many children who have become adolescents and continue to play with us. We have documented with several scientific studies the results obtained, from which we can start again to continue to improve our proposal.

This week we met to start the new 2021/22 sports season. The groups are divided by age and according to motor and psychosocial skills. With young people with greater difficulties in these areas, the resumption of activity is more complicated, since it is likely that they have not continued with outdoor activities and structured in a specific way as those of the training we propose. Each session is 50 minutes, it is for them a demanding period of constant attention to the coach or psychologist, in which they must respect the rules to which are added motor and cognitive-affective demands to which they are not accustomed. Let’s also say that it takes a lot of attention and professional passion on the part of the operators who stimulate these youngsters to carry out activities, which the parents who observe them are impressed with in a positive way. Often, they do activities, such as passing the ball, that they only do with great difficulty with their parents and that may have been abandoned because of the frustration they generate in adults.

This type of young people requires and needs an activity 1a1, they could not learn and persevere in the commitment if not in the presence of a figure totally dedicated to them, which respects the moments of pause and fatigue me that at the same time leads them to perform a specific and differentiated motor activity.

We move in this way, because we believe that it is the only possible way if we want to carry out a program that produces new learning, in relation to sports and psychosocial aspects. This is our challenge that is the same every year, we are convinced that we can get significant results, which could be even better if it were possible to increase the number of hours per week devoted to sport. Of course, a large number of professionals is required to carry out this activity. For this reason, the field team is composed only of college graduates.

With boys and girls over the age of 13 we have built groups in which it is possible to play soccer and begin, after this long period of pandemic, tournaments and games. With them the training is very similar to that conducted with typically developing kids and this year we will see how far we can go as an AS Roma soccer team.

A special Sunday with soccer

It takes very little to spend a morning of play, soccer, with the coaches of Roma and the Academy of Integrated Football and sports psychologists. Many children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities on three pieces of grass at the Foro Italico, Rome, as part of the Tennis and Friends event.

This is the beauty of soccer, you just need a ball and immediately you play, anywhere, even in the small spaces between tennis courts. We must not lose the simplicity that this game offers us, it takes very little to spend time in a way that is fun for everyone, from young people to families and to us who organized it.

This year we are starting our 7th year of activity and after a long period without games we will organize tournaments to let the kids experience the excitement of playing together and competing against other teams.

For information go to our web site.

10 summer camp goals for young with intellectual disability

What we learn from a summer camp for youth with intellectual disabilities (ID).

  1. 5 hours of activities alternating between soccer, motor coordination and with the ball, and expressive activities are an adequate amount of time for everyone, even the youngest (6/7 years old) and those with more serious disorders.
  2. We have estimated that a week of summer camp of 25 hours is equivalent to 2 months of bi-weekly training of two hours.
  3. 5 hours of activity carried out outdoors and in total safety represents a unique experience that almost all young people with ID do not experience. Thus, satisfaction of basic needs, such as drinking and eating, is trained properly.
  4. The management of fatigue, and therefore the alternation of moments of activity with those of recovery, is another significant factor in the empowerment of these young people, who usually carry out activities at low intensity, with little energy expenditure and in indoor environments.
  5. Young people can alternate activity phases with recovery moments, without compromising the effectiveness of sports training, since the amount of time available also allows for these phases of breaks within it.
  6. Young people develop an ability to relate to each other, fostered by the breaks and the moments of transition from one activity to the next.
  7. Soccer is a sport of group and communication among players. This necessity stimulates increased verbal interactions among youth who have a verbal skill level of even a few words.
  8. The adult who leads the activities becomes an effective reference for all of them, to respond to the needs that continually emerge during the activity, and is also a facilitator of respect for the rules of life in common in the group.
  9. The motor and sport development of soccer is thus trained with a continuity and frequency that the usual one-hour training sessions do not allow. These young people with ID receive much more feedback on their activities during summer camp and can put it into practice more frequently given the large number of hours they are involved in each day.
  10. Parents are all particularly pleased to see their children’s involvement in this wide variety of activities and to see their motor and psychosocial progress.

“Summer Together” for young with intellectual disabiliY

The “Summer Together” camp, organized by Roma Cares together with the Academy of Integrated Football, for young people with intellectual disabilities continues with young people who have greater functional limitations in terms of motor and psychosocial. They too are engaged from 8 am to 1 pm for 5 days a week. Describing their activity is more complex than for youth with a higher level of functioning. The reason for this greater difficulty in describing it stems from the fact that they do a 1-to-1 activity, a student and a coach/psychologist. Their activity is organized of a series of motor routes but that each one accomplishes in his own way, following his own rhythm and the need to rest after the activity phases. It takes a lot of patience, enthusiasm and professionalism on the part of the adults. They must work aware of the extreme difficulties of improvement.

It is not easy to have this approach but this is the purpose of our work not only during the year but also at summer camp. We have measured that one week of summer camp (25 hours) is equivalent in terms of quantity and motor and psychological experience to two months of training. Very few scientific investigations have studied this phenomenon, demonstrating the little interest that organized sports activity has aroused so far in the scientific community.

We hope to continue this activity of summer camps in the coming years to be able to document in a continuous way the improvements of these young people and the didactic methodology useful to produce these results.

“Summer Together”: soccer for young with intellectual disability

“Summer Together” camp has begun, promoted by Roma Cares in collaboration with Accademia Calcio Integrato with youth ages 6-18 with intellectual disabilities playing soccer. Second day, the boys and girls arrive at the camp and start playing in the big pitch. Peaceful environment, they shoot on goal. This happens while waiting for the other teammates to arrive. Then we listen and sing the Italian anthem all together.

Training begins with coordination exercises with the ball, divided into two groups of 5. There are 3 AS Roma coaches following them, providing technical instructions and encouraging them to keep up the pace of the exercise.

Different sized shots on goal on stations, rotating every few minutes.

These are young people who have been training with us for a long time, some for 6 years others for 4. The summer camp is 5 hours on 5 days per week (the global group in three weeks will be of 90 young). The group of 10 I’m talking about is made up of young people with intellectual disabilities with good motor functioning even though some have difficulty running, some would mostly walk and run a few steps, and some are very fast. Some need more than others to alternate minutes of activity with a break (in any case it is very hot here in Rome).

For the latter, having many hours available to train is important, since in this way they have the opportunity to train for an overall long period of time, while during the weekly training sessions, stopping for 20 minutes means losing almost 40% of the training time, which is 50 minutes.

Of course there are also moments of tension, some boys show restlessness, someone else argues with a teammate, someone responds impulsively or takes offense because they do not pass the ball, others get tired and are prone to isolation.

These difficulties can be resolved with the patience of the coaches who understand these problems, but above all thanks to the fact that the game continues and these episodes do not disturb those who play. In this sense the continuity of the activity is a stimulus to those who leave to return to play. This is because, in any case, the objective is to maintain a positive and pleasant atmosphere that, in the end, outweighs any difficulties encountered.

With an image we can say that the river flows, when a boy/girl lives a more critical moment, its flowing helps to solve individual problems because the collective continues the activity, so everything flows and then you get to the sea where everything ends.

Coaches carry out their leadership role with understanding and closeness but in a firm manner. This attitude of theirs is the essential cornerstone for which everything flows, despite the fact that we are coaching young people with intellectual disabilities.

A lot of work is done to bring value to coaching. This is the reason why listening to and singing together the Italian anthem and before the final match the Champions League anthem are moments that precede significant moments of the training. It’s obvious, finally, that wearing the AS Roma uniform is another unifying factor, a way for these young athletes to feel proud and part of something that in their perception is immense.
In the next few days I will tell you about the experience of other young people who participate at “Estate Insieme”.

World Autism Awareness Day

genitori « Alberto Cei

Football and autism

There are few research studies conducted on the topic of soccer and autism, below are the studies on youth with ASD presented in an article by Vetri and Roccella (2020). On the Playing Field to Improve: A Goal for Autism. Medicine, 56.

Hayward et al. (2016) investigated a group of 18 children with ASD (7-11 years old) who participated in a 16-week community-based program The authors assessed physical activity outcomes such as pre- and post-football skills, participant attendance, and parent satisfaction. The purpose of their soccer program was to teach children with ASD the basic soccer skills while giving them the opportunity to have fun and interact with peers. The results supported the feasibility and effectiveness of a soccer program because they showed improvements in shot accuracy and agility on the 15-yard line. Parents’ overall satisfaction was very good and perceived their children as more active and enjoying playing soccer

Calcio Insieme is a project promoted by the Fondazione Roma Cares (a non-profit organization linked to AS ROMA and the sport association Accademia di Calcio Integrato). Cei et al. (2017) recruited 30 children with ASD (6-13 years old) to study the effects of a soccer-based training program. All children underwent initial and final quantitative motor assessment. The authors used a qualitative approach to assess psychosocial skills at the beginning and end of the training period through interviews with their parents and teachers of the youth. Results showed that parents and teachers perceived most children with ASD to have improved psychosocial and communication skills. Motor skills assessed quantitatively showed significant improvement in the following six out of ten tests: walking between cones, running between cones, rolling on the mat, jumping high (three 20/30 cm obstacles), grasping (five throws from 1 to 5 m away from the instructor), and staying balanced on the jellyfish.

A third research was conducted by Chambers and Radley (2020) who used a different approach. preferring a peer-mediated intervention to promote skill acquisition in children with ASD. The authors selected three male students with autism (ages 11 and 12, respectively) and instructed a 14-year-old peer interventionist common to all three participants. The soccer skills assessed were throwing, kicking, and defense. During the training sessions, the peer explained and demonstrated soccer skills to the children with ASD and provided technical instruction after practice to correct errors. At the end of the study, the three participants rapidly acquired the coached soccer skills and accuracy in executing the skills persisted over time, in the absence of any peer intervention.

10 reasons to play football for young with autism

10 ragioni per cui i giovani con disabilità intellettiva traggono beneficio dal gioco del calcio
  1. Il calcio è lo sport più amato dai giovani di tutto il mondo: si può giocare ovunque, al chiuso e all’aperto, ogni luogo si può trasformare in un campo di calcio e chiunque indipendentemente dalle sue capacità può giocare una partita.
  2. Il pallone è un strumento sportivo senza rivali: lo puoi calciare con i piedi o con le mani e colpire con ogni parte del corpo; tutti possono passare la palla, tirare in porta o provare a parare un tiro. Dai un pallone a un gruppo di bambini e non si stancheranno di rincorrerlo.
  3. Il calcio favorisce l’inclusione di tutti, ogni ragazzo o ragazza può correre dietro una palla, toglierla a un altro, tirare, passare e parare.
  4. I giovani con disabilità intellettiva sono di solito esclusi dal gioco del calcio, perché sono rare le opportunità che gli vengono offerte.
  5. Giocare a calcio e con il pallone gli permette di stare con i compagni di classe, con i loro amici e di conoscerne di nuovi.
  6. Calcio è stare all’aria aperta, vedere le stagioni anche se si vive in città e imparare a muoversi con gli altri quando fa freddo o caldo o quando tira vento.
  7. Calcio è partecipare a un allenamento centrato su apprendimenti nuovi che determinano il miglioramento delle abilità motorie di base, coordinazione, abilità tecnico- tattiche, abilità di comunicazione, collaborazione e cognitivo-affettive.
  8. Calcio è stare in gruppo insieme durante l’allenamento, condividere gli stessi spazi, esercitandosi da soli ma anche con un altro compagno o in piccoli gruppi.
  9. Calcio è vestire la divisa della propria squadra, la Roma, andare allo stadio insieme a tutto il gruppo a vedere le partite e andare a scuola con questa uniforme, essere riconosciuti dai compagni come allievi della scuola calcio della Roma.
  10. Calcio è integrazione, allenandosi e partecipando a tornei e giocando partite di calcio integrato 5vs5 composte da tre giovani con disabilità intellettiva e due giovani della AS Roma.

Workshop: Football and inclusion.AS Roma experience with the young with intellectual disabilities

Calcio Insieme è un progetto di empowerment psicologico, relazionale e motorio tramite il calcio per giovani con disabilità intellettiva, con particolare riferimento al disturbo dello spettro autistico.

Dal 2015 la Fondazione Roma Cares, espressione della responsabilità sociale dell’AS Roma Calcio, e Asd Accademia Calcio Integrato orga- nizzano su base annuale programmi di sviluppo motorio attraverso il gioco del calcio per bambini con disabilità intellettive. Le indagini condotte hanno evidenziato la costante presenza dei bambini durante le attività e la soddisfazione delle loro famiglie e i benefici motori, sportivi e psicosociali che derivano da questi programmi.

Scopo di questo Seminario è di presentare i risultati delle ricerche condotte, illustrare il modello d’intervento, realizzato per la prima volta nel calcio giovanile con la collaborazione degli istruttori della AS Roma, degli psicologi dello sport, del logopedista, dei medici e dei responsabili dei rapporti con le scuole e le famiglie.

Sport for young people with intellectual disabilities is not possible at the moment

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the odds to access sports were stacked much higher for youth with a disability than the general population. Physical activity levels are 4.5 times lower for youth with a disability, and the obesity rate is 38% higher for these children, according to the National Center on Health, Physical Activity & Disability (NCHPAD).

Now, as youth sports start to return from COVID-19 in some states, the gap to access opportunities may grow even wider. The disabled community is taking a more conservative approach on when and how to play sports again because of health concerns.

I n the area of intellectual disability that I deal with  the project Calcio Insieme, we were unable to organize the summer camps precisely because of the difficulty in maintaining physical distance with these children. 

“People with disabilities are very much being more cautious,” said Bob Lujano, NCHPAD inclusion specialist and a former Paralympic rugby athlete. “There’s great fear of, if I do come down with (COVID-19) and I go to a hospital with only one or two ventilators, am I going to be passed over because Joe Smith, a 25-year-old without a disability, will get taken care of first?”

“Being ‘first’ in your community should be avoided,” Move United said in its return to play guidelines. “Take the benefit of some time to learn from other effective strategies, plan carefully, train your providers and form local partnerships that help prepare for the safest possible environment.”

Disability alone may not be related to higher risk for contracting COVID-19 or having severe illness, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, CDC says some people with disabilities might be at a higher risk because of their underlying medical conditions. According to CDC, adults with disabilities are three times more likely than adults without disabilities to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer than adults without disabilities.

One significant concern about returning to sports is maintaining the safety of staff and volunteers in cases where youth need help to play.

Experts told The New York Times that one way to teach new concepts during COVID-19 to kids with intellectual disabilities is through “social stories.” These are individualized short stories that pair simple language with pictures used for children with disorders such as autism. They also recommend using color-coded circles to teach social distancing – such as red for strangers, orange for people you would normally wave to, green and yellow for casual and close friends, and blue for people you can hug, such as parents or siblings.

We have to be cautious, as they say, with Roma Cares and Accademia di Calcio Integrato we are planning what the return to football will look like for our young people with autism from September, the beginning of the 2020/21 football season. It will not be easy but it is our will not to stop this activity so important for these young people, the families and for us who have been organizing it for 5 years.

We will need more space and more hours to cover the same number of young people, so as to respect the physical distance and the possibility to play football which requires a large and structured space.