Tag Archive for 'disabilità intellettiva'

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.

Summer camp for young with intellectual disability

It is difficult to talk about a summer camp for young people with intellectual disabilities with medium to severe disorders such as those we ended after three weeks of activity. The difficulty lies mainly in the fact that the activity was carried out on a 1 to 1 basis, which means that each young person was followed by an operator, who could be a psychologist or a coach. For them, as for those with a better level of functioning, the sports activity was alternated with the expressive activity for a total duration of 5 consecutive hours.

The sporting activity took place in a field of 5 soccer fields structured with a sequence of motor stations so that everyone was active at the same time without waiting. This allowed each child to be able to carry out the activity at their own pace, thus allowing them to take breaks according to their tiredness and their motivation to continue.

Having much more time available to carry out the activity, compared to the usual duration of the training of 60 minutes, has allowed everyone to take rather long breaks of 15/20 minutes while continuing to stay on the field and then resume it having a time available of 5 hours. This aspect also had a positive effect on the coaches who worked in the awareness of not having to urge the youngster to do the activity, as can happen during when the training time is much shorter.

It must also be said that each week the participants were active for 5 hours a day for a total of 25 hours, which in quantitative terms is equivalent to 3 months of training for two hours a week. Furthermore, these more limited functioning boys/girls are unlikely to come every workout, so it is not hard to imagine that for many this weekly number may have equated to 4 months of training.

Therefore, it should not be surprising that some of them have improved a lot even in just one week, which for them represented a completely new life experience, with an unknown personal involvement. This result was often reiterated by the parents who would have liked to continue this kind of activity for other weeks. The camp was also extended to their brothers and sisters. Not only did this allow the family to relieve themselves of the problem of their placement during this time in other summer leaders, but the games they played together enhanced their awareness that other families also have children like their brothers/sisters with disabilities. They discovered that there are activities that can be done together, that their siblings improve if they do an organized activity with others their age. In other words, an idea of everyday normalcy is spread among them that can exist if you are in a non-exclusive but interacting context.

The environments they usually attend are not organized in this way, but our summer camp demonstrates how it is possible to promote integration, without it becoming a pitiful activity or one of fake inclusion, in which the only element that unites is the condition of the same physical environment but which creates exclusion for the content practiced.

“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”.

Football together per young with intellectual disabilities

Calcio Insieme continues for the 6th year its program of teaching soccer to children and adolescents, girls and boys, with intellectual disorders. 80 young people will train twice a week followed by a staff of coaches, sports psychologists, speech therapists and doctors. Today we start with the training of coaches, tonight online and tomorrow on the pitch.

Autism and football

Yesterday simple twitter had 2353 views. It’s a photo of a meeting of our staff discussing the new training program for children with intellectual disabilities and largely autistic, to improve their motor learning and teach football.

The interest it has aroused shows how the theme of sports practice for these children (6-13 years) is topical, there are few who are regularly involved in sport, we do not really know how many of them, how often and what activities they do. Research data shows these children practice individual sports, mainly running and swimming. Programs involving them in football schools are extremely rare, as they require competent coaches and psychologists. Often football is not recommended for these children because they are placed in groups with young people with typical development and coaches who do not have time and skills to teach them.

Roma Cares, AS Roma and the Integrated Football Academy have been designing and implementing the “Calcio Insieme” project for 5 years, which currently involves 70 children with intellectual disabilities. It involves a staff of 10 coaches, 5 sports psychologists, 1 speech therapist, 1 doctor, 1 manager of relations with families and schools, 1 technical manager and 1 scientific manager. It is a complex project that involves children from October to June twice a week. The results obtained and published in scientific journals have shown significant improvements in the motor and psychosocial areas.

Quality must be the most relevant key point of the sport programs with people with intellectual disabilties

The idea that sport is a fundamental activity to develop the motor and psychosocial skills of people with intellectual disabilities is becoming increasingly widespread and it is important to start practicing it since childhood.

Furthermore, sport involvement should permit the integration between young people with intellectual disabilities and peers with typical development, improve people’s overall well-being and allow families to live positive experiences and feel part of a community, the sports community, which values ​​their children regardless of their difficulties.

Realizing these goals requires:

  • A sports club that commits itself to defining a specific and documentable sports program
  • The involvement of the local schools and the ASLs of the national health system in the recruitment of the participants in these programs, and in providing the service of the visit to sports fitness
  • The presentation to the families of the sports program and its aims
  • The choice of professionals working in the field in the realization of the project, who are graduates in motor sciences, sport psychologists, speech therapists and sports doctors and who in turn are trained to work with young people with intellectual disabilities
  • The preparation and implementation of motor tests, interviews with families and psychological assessment systems of the behavior of young people in training which identifies and shows the improvements produced by sport activity during the sports season
  • The organization of public moments with parents and schools to illustrate the progress achieved and the methods used to obtain them

In short, we need to get out of the concept of “doing good” and get in the mentality of “doing it well”. We must be aware that attributing to external problems the difficulty of “doing good” (poor economic resources, poor preparation of the operators, taking as a basic idea that doing something is better than doing nothing) is just an excuse to hide our difficulties to achieve an effective service.

On the contrary, some rules direct the quality of a project:

  • Do well from the beginning
  • Everyone must be aware the quality of the service depends on him/her, regardless of the role
  • Prevent problems before they arise
  • We are a team, we work in groups
  • Measure, evaluate and let everyone know it
  • Identify each year new goals, pursuing a process of continuous improvement

Conference: soccer and mental disabilities



Mental disabilities & sports: IJSP special issue

International Journal of Sport Psychology  first special issue totally devoted to the persons with intellectual disabilities.

Football Integrated for children with mental disabilities

Roma Cares Foundation and the Integrated Football Academy continue even this year the project “Football Together” directed to children of 6-13 years with intellectual disabilities. The project aims to use football to promote the sports, social and psychological development of young people. The program is meant to be a sport training adapted to the needs of each individual, with specific motor and psychosocial assessments (beginning, during and year-end) permitting anyone to learn if followed by competent professionals (football instructors, sports psychologists, speech therapist and doctors) with training sessions organized into units of 60 minutes twice a week from October to June.

For further information: segreteria@accademiacalciointegrato.org