Tag Archive for 'autismo'

8 years of Football Together for young with intellectual disabilities

The 8° year of the “Football Together” project is coming to the end. It is a complex project aimed at young people with intellectual disabilities, with special reference to young people with autism. It is a long time in which many of the participants have gone from being teenagers with autism to young adults.

It is a project of AS Roma in collaboration with the Academy of Integrated Football, which aims to promote an innovative methodology of soccer training among these young people, starting from the age of school soccer 6-12 years old to the more game-centered activity in later ages from 13 years old and beyond.

474 youth have been involved in 8 years - Each year the number of youth with intellectual disabilities has increased. Initially the project covered the soccer school age groups, going forward it was enriched by the upper age group we called “Cub Scouts Grow Up,” which now includes youth who have reached the age of majority.

80 are the youth with autism involved in the 2022-23 activity - Currently, the youth are divided into three groups according to age and their motor and psychological skills. The group composed of youth with a severe level of autism are each followed by a single professional (instructor or psychologist). The group of younger youth (6-9) years old and with an average level of functioning carry out group activities and ball games. The group of adolescents over14 of medium to high functioning follow a soccer training program and play soccer games5 among themselves, in an integrated way with players from the AS Roma soccer school and participate in events organized by other clubs or FIGC.

30 were the young people with autism in the first year - Calcio Insieme began in September 2015 with the collaboration of some schools in Rome that promoted among the families of pupils with intellectual disabilities the knowledge of this initiative, organized informational meetings with the staff of Calcio Insieme to begin to build a Community on the territory in which school, family, promoting sports subjects, and staff could feel part of a common project at the center of which are children with intellectual disabilities and in particular those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

28 hours of staff training - In 2015 the staff participated in a 28-hour Training Course by “Football Together” prior to the start of the activity, which had experts in the various fields of intellectual disability as lecturers and speeches by parents, school workers, and sports clubs. At the beginning of each year the staff is involved in a refresher training.

24 are the practitioners - The staff consists of 10 soccer instructors, 6 sports psychologists, 1logopedist, 3 doctors, 1 school and parent relations manager,1 technical area manager, 1 scientific manager and 1 institutional relations manager.

20 are the schools involved - The young people with intellectual disabilities involved come from 20 schools in the Roman area. A collaborative relationship has been established with each of these schools through the principal, support teacher and families.

9 are the videos to talk about Football Together - 6 short educational videos each lasting a few minutes were made, funded by the presidency of the Lazio Region. 3 more videos were made to present the activity carried out and the results achieved.

7 are the scientific contributions published - 3 are the scientific articles published in international journals. A special issue of the journal “Movement” and an article in the journal of the School of Sport were published. During Covid the activity carried out online with these young people produced a technical book of exercises to be done at home. The activity was presented at the national conference of the Italian Dyspraxia Society, at a seminar held at the Institute of Neuropsychiatry at Sapienza University in Rome, and is an integral part of the Level IV Course for Coaches organized by the School of Sport in Rome.

3 are the summer camps - Summer camps were held to: respond to the needs expressed by families with children with intellectual disabilities, offering weeks of summer camp, free of charge; create a model of summer camp and typical day, based on movement, declined in the different playful-motor and sports expressions; constitute a concrete model of integration thanks to the presence at the summer camp also of siblings or classmates, their peers with typical development. Each week of camp was spread over 5 days for a total of 25 hours per week.

3 are the young people who served as assistant instructors - These young people have turned 18 and have been with us for a number of years, their passion for soccer is well-rounded. They have served as assistant instructors during summer camp weeks. In the future they could put their acquired sports skills to use and make sports their career field, but their intellectual disability is an obstacle. The goal is to break down this obstacle and build an educational pathway to make soccer accessible to these girls and boys also as a possible career field.

2 are the areas investigated: motor-sportive and psycho-social - Different motor-sportive tests were proposed and experimented with before arriving at the final one that uses a 5-level behavioral description of basic motor skills, repeated twice a year, at the beginning of the educational journey and at its end. During interviews with parents, they were asked to fill out behavior fact sheets at the beginning and end of the year to assess their perception of improvement on the psychological and social areas investigated. Similar psychological assessments were conducted by the psychologists of these young people, also examining in the more serious youth the duration of their active engagement during each training session.

10 reasons why young with intellectual disabilities benefit from playing soccer

  1. Soccer is the most beloved sport for young people all over the world: it can be played anywhere, indoors and outdoors, any place can be turned into a soccer field, and anyone regardless of their ability can play a game.
  2. The ball is an unrivaled sports tool: you can kick it with your feet or hands and hit it with any part of your body; everyone can pass the ball, shoot at the goal or try to parry a shot. Give a group of children a ball and they won’t get tired of chasing it.
  3. Soccer promotes inclusion for everyone; any boy or girl can run after a ball, take it away from another, shoot, pass and parry.
  4. Young people with intellectual disabilities are usually excluded from the game of soccer because the opportunities they are given are rare.
  5. Playing soccer and with the ball allows them to be with their classmates, their friends and meet new ones.
  6. Soccer is being outdoors, seeing the seasons even if you live in the city, and learning how to move with others when it is cold or hot or windy.
  7. Soccer is participating in training centered on new learning that results in the improvement of basic motor skills, coordination, technical-tactical skills, communication, collaboration and cognitive-affective skills.
  8. Soccer is being in a group together during training, sharing the same spaces, practicing alone but also with another partner or in small groups.
  9. Soccer is wearing the jersey of one’s own team, Roma, going to the stadium together with the whole group to watch the games and going to school in this uniform, being recognized by one’s teammates as players of Roma soccer school.
  10. Soccer is integration, training and participating in tournaments and playing 5vs5 integrated soccer matches composed of three young people with intellectual disabilities and two young from AS Roma.

Football for children with severe autism

Cei, A., Sepio, D. (2022). A case study of psychological empowerment of three children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) through football coaching. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 53(3), 281-302.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that appears during the first three years of life and is characterized by communication prob- lems, deficits in social interaction, and repetitive and restricted interests and be- haviors. Although sport provides an opportunity to promote the psychosocial and motor development of people with intellectual disabilities, few investigations have been conducted to identify the most suitable training method for children with ASD (Bremer et al., 2016).

The aim of this research was to study the psychologi- cal and motor development of three children with severe ASD. The children were placed in a sports programme called “Football Together”, which lasted 8 months and included two weekly training sessions. The development of the participants’ psychosocial and interpersonal skills was assessed through semi-structured inter- views with the parents before and after the entire period of activity. It was also assessed through systematic observation of the children’s behaviour during train- ing by a sports psychologist throughout the programme. The three children im- proved their motor and interpersonal skills through the training programme.

The training model and evaluation methods revealed the key role played by the sport and football in the motor and psychosocial development of children with ASD.

Summer camp for young with intellectual disability

Once again this year together with AS Roma we organized two weeks of summer camp for young people with intellectual disabilities. It started today and the sports activity took place in spaces organized with a sequence of motor stations so that everyone is active without moments of waiting. This allowed each child to be able to do the activity at their own pace, thus allowing them to take breaks depending on their tiredness and motivation to continue.

Having much more time to do the activity, compared to the usual training duration of 60 minutes also allows each person to take rather long breaks of 15 to 20 minutes while continuing to be on the field and then resume it having a time of 5 hours. This aspect also has a positive effect on the coaches who work in the knowledge that they do not have to urge the young person to do the activity, as can happen during the year when training time is much shorter.

Participants will be active for 5 hours per day for a total of 25 hours per week, which in quantitative terms is equivalent to 3 months of training for two hours per week. In addition, these more limited-functioning boys/girls are also unlikely to make several absences during the year, so it is not difficult to assume that for many this weekly number of hours may be equivalent to 4 months of training.

Look the video of today: WhatsApp Video 2022-06-13 at 11.33.03

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