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Summer of Sport

How our adult services got active to celebrate the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Flo Bennett, Digital Product Manager at the National Autistic Society

Over the summer we supported autistic adults in our services to get involved in the fun of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Alongside our staff, they took part in a variety of sport related activities throughout the Games, like relay racing, trying different cuisines of competing countries and designing team flags.

This was part of our adult services’ Summer of Sport initiative, which aimed to create more opportunities for the autistic people we support across the UK to be active and develop their life skills. Every autistic person is different, so it was important we could adapt activities to each person, their interests and support needs. So, we developed a booklet full of different ideas, which each individual service could then use to create tailored events and activities.

Listening to families

At the National Autistic Society, we support autistic adults in a range of ways, including 24-hour care in our own homes, extra help for people in their own or our homes and support in our day services.

This initiative was also part of our response to feedback from families who wanted more opportunities for their loved ones to be active, which of course can also benefit mood, mental health and wellbeing. It built on the success of our Spring Forward walking challenge that saw the people we support and staff mark World Autism Awareness Week in April 2021 by collectively walking 26,000 miles over the preceding weeks and months – more than Earth’s total circumference.

Visiting a sports day

Having joined the National Autistic Society during the pandemic, I was excited to finally be able to visit one of our services in London, which was holding a sports day as part of their Summer of Sport activities. When I arrived, an impressive array of events was being set-up. There was a limbo set, a scavenger hunt, an egg and spoon race, a skittles bowling alley and even a welly-throwing area!

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Our staff made sure the people we support had an opportunity to try out each of the activities, and it was great to see how accessible the sports day was. Every game was designed to allow the people we support to participate in a way they were comfortable with. After living with pandemic restrictions for more than a year, a few of the people we support felt anxious about attending the event. The wellbeing of the people we support is our top priority so we made sure everyone who attended had lots of space, took breaks if they needed to, and were given a huge amount of encouragement.

Some of the people we support seemed like real athletes in training – I saw a welly boot thrown at least 150 feet! Like any sporting event, there was controversy too, with much debate over whether an egg and spoon race winner had used their finger to pin their egg to the spoon.

​​​​My highlights included people giving the limbo a go. And of course, I had to give it a go, too! At one point, with the bar barely two feet off the ground, we resorted to crawling underneath instead of leaning backwards to get past the limbo stick. Another moment of controversy!

Most of all, after so much disruption during the past 18 months, I’m just so pleased we could all come together. We can’t wait to do it again.

 Find out more: autism.org.uk

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