Active for Autism

Amy Webster is the Active for Autism coordinator at the National Autistic Society. Here she outlines how the training project was developed and looks at some of its successes.

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Author: Amy Webster

Active for Autism

The National Autistic Society (NAS) developed the Active for Autism training project in 2014 with the aim of increasing the participation of autistic people in sport and physical activity.

Training participants have included:

  • coaches
  • education staff
  • play centre staff
  • occupational therapists & physiotherapists
  • support workers
  • hospital staff
  • parents

Aims of the project

The project aims to increase:

  • the confidence and skills of activity leaders
  • levels of participation of autistic people in sport and physical activity
  • the self-esteem and wellbeing of autistic people

How we did it

Our training courses are delivered through a range of formats, including half day workshops to those taking place over 2 days. We also offer an e-learning module developed by autistic people.

The training includes autism awareness and theory, matched with practical strategies such as how to implement visual aids and social stories into your delivery. Participants will also learn the importance of planning a structured session as well as how to adapt their practice by using frameworks such as the Inclusion Spectrum and STEP (Space, Task, Equipment, People).

Autistic young people and adults were fully involved in the development of the course content, drawing on their experiences of physical activity. Autistic contractors wrote and reviewed some content for the training and we also filmed four separate activity groups which all included autistic participants.

Participants were filmed taking part in activities and interviewed on camera to give an insight into their own experience of sport.


Partnership with City of York Council

City of York Council (CYC) undertook an audit of inclusive activities throughout the city and identified a need for more autism awareness and activities for autistic residents. In order to provide more physical activity opportunities for autistic people the council sought to upskill local coaches in autism awareness. CYC subsidised our two day ‘Autism, sport and physical activity’ workshop.

CYC’s decision to subsidise and market the course locally meant that fourteen coaches from their community, including two autistic coaches, were able to access training. This training helped increase coaches’ understanding of autism and physical activity, and allowed them to develop a local network and establish links that supported their own aims and objectives. From a strategic point of view this project contributed towards council priorities such as protecting vulnerable people and building strong communities.

Other achievements

We have trained over 1000 people from various local and national agencies across the UK including Badminton England, the Football Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Local and national media coverage of the project has in turn raised awareness of autism in sport, and we were delighted to appoint Tom Morgan as our Sports Ambassador.

We were also a finalist in the Autism Sporting Chance Award (LD & Autism Awards)

What next?

The NAS will be producing a good practice guide for sport and physical activity leaders. This guide will act as a good starting point to building their awareness and understanding of autism as well as providing them with additional sources of information following any face to face or online training they may have undertaken.

If you are interested in learning more about autism, sport and physical activity please visit Active for Autism to check for our upcoming training dates. 

Date added: 12 September 2016