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Advice please about a child on the autism spectrum at football club. Long, sorry.

(11 Posts)
seeker Tue 09-Jun-09 09:10:58

My dp is the coach of an under 9s football club, and would welcome some advice about one of the children.

The club has a very child centered philosophy. No shouting is allowed from coaches, parents or the children and there is an expectation - usually met - that they will behave kindly and respectfully towards each other. When we enter tournaments and competitions, we don't select a teams and b teams - all the children play in rotation, so everyone gets a turn to play, and go in goal and so on. This means, obviously, they we probably lose more often that if we took a more conventional approach, but the children have much more fun, and we win often enough for them not to be discouraged. The children are all 7 or 8.

Anyway, halfway through the year, a boy - let's call him Jack - joined. His mother said that he had behavoural problems, but was to be treated exactly the same as the others. He is a good player, and in training everything is usually fine. It's at matches that the problems arise. When he's on the pitch, he will suddenly sit down, or wander off or get very upset if a goal is scored against us. We work very hard at getting the children not to be too upset, (or at least to try not to show it) but Jack gets angry with them for not being upset, and will sometimes bash one of his team mates in fustration!

Dp has, up to now, always watched for his behaviour to change, and when he sees it coming, to substitute him, so that he doesn't have a melt-down in full public view, or get hurt if he lies down in the middle of the game, or push his team mates over the edge of tolerance if he stops playing in the middle of a match and hands it to the other team!

He has now been given a diagnosis of autism. Thatis all his mother has told us, and she is unable/unwilling to give us any more guidance about how to support him. She is determined that he should be treated exactly the same at the others, but dp doesn't see how he can. At the moment, he is pre-empting problems by substituting him BEFORE his behaviour changes. He always says something like "Jack, you look tired - have a break".

But his mother wants him to be left on the pitch until he behaves badly, and then be hauled off to think about it (which is what would happen top any of the others - they would sit out til they had cooled off an apologized). She says he has to learn to behave appropriately. She does not seem very open to discussion.

The trouble is, this would happen in every match, and anyway, his behaviour isn't the same as one of the NT children having a "red mist moment" and DP isn't happy with effectively punishing him for something that's outside his control.

I'm sorry if this is a ramble - and thank you if you've got this far. And thank you even more if you have any ideas. We really want the club to be part of the solution, not part of the problem - we jsut don't know what to do for thebest.

titchy Tue 09-Jun-09 10:32:39

I think your dp needs to speak to the mother again, and press home the point that although he respects her view on what is best for her son (doesn't sound like it though, but not for us to judge), he has to act in the best interests of the team as a whole, and leaving him on the pitch is not an option as it would be too disrupting for the other players.

I think the approach your dp current has actually sounds great - can he not carry on in the same vein.

Widemouthfrog Tue 09-Jun-09 10:34:10

As a mum with a DS with autism, I would be very cautious about doing a team activity with him such as football because it is inevitably so difficult for him to manage.
Actually, i think what you DP is trying to achieve is a good compromise, and I agree that allowing the boy to hit meltdown is not a satisfactory outcome.
Its a difficult one. if this is a new diagnosis the parents of the boy may still be having difficulty coming to terms with this, and it sounds as if there may be a level of denial in wanting him to be treated exactly like the NT children.
No real advice I am afraid. You need to be able to build a relationship of trust with the parents so that they feel able to discuss an approach without feeling threatened that you are trying to exclude their boy. It sounds as if your DP is trying to achieve this already.

Seuss Tue 09-Jun-09 10:59:15

My ds is autistic too and I think your DP is handling the situation very well. The child is being treated like all the others in most respects and like you say it seems wrong for this boy to reach a point where he is punished for something out of his control. I don't think waiting until he's done something and hauling him off is really going to teach him anything - apart from maybe put him off something he enjoys. I think maybe I'd pull rank and say I'm the coach, I run the team and I'm not happy exposing my players to danger/humiliation. (I am quite grumpy today though and so maybe being a bit harsh.) If it's a recent diagnosis though I expect mum is still finding her feet a bit and maybe unwilling to accept that there are times when it's better not to treat him like everyone else. Hope you get it sorted, sounds like a great team!

pagwatch Tue 09-Jun-09 11:21:41

I think your DP is handling it well too and i agreethere is a little element of denial in the mums attitude - which is understandable.

Perhaps your DP should tell her that if he has a meltdown on the pitch more than once then the reaction for an NT child would be to drop him from selection.
She wants him to be treated as 'normal' but the counter is that you would not tolerate that behaviour from an NT child so her position does not bear scrutiny.

I would say that your DP should have another go at chatting with her and tell her that the implications for his having repeated meltdowns are all negative. The other children will get annoyed with him, the watching parents will regard him negatively too and youyr DPO would have to consider not letting him play.
If she wants to attend all the matches and deal with his meltdown that would be different but she seems to be expecting your DP to manage all the negative consequences and ignoring the negative impact upon her son too.

She is trying to do the right thing but OI think someone needs to walk her through how damaging it will be in the long term.
Her boys behaviour can be managed more effectively but the knowledge that he will be subbed if he starts to get upset , rather than by letting him get upset and then saying 'look what you did - its your fault!' afterwards.

seeker Tue 09-Jun-09 12:41:41

Thank you for reading my essay. I'll pass on your messages to dp when he gets home. I think the big difference between what he wants to do and what the mother wants to do is the point at which Jack is subbed. Dp wants to pre-empt. The mother wants to wait until he has done something obvious on the ground that he won't learn if he doesn't see the taking off as a consequence of his actions. But I'm not sure he would anyway, and as and dp wants to protect him as far as possible from getting hurt, from becoming a "spectacle" and, it must be said, from his team mates, who are incredibly patient, but who are also only human, and 8 years old!

I think with your endorsement, he might play the "I'm the Coach' card!

Seuss Tue 09-Jun-09 13:22:14

I agree - I don't think he would learn from it anyway. If my ds is anything to go by once he is having a meltdown there is no reasoning with him, it is just miserable for us all - not something I'd want 8yr old team mates to have to witness on a regular basis! The pre-emptive strategy your DP is using is actually what my son's school are trying to teach him to do for himself - recongnise the feelings and go and cool off.

Peachy Tue 09-Jun-09 13:36:43

My ds1 sonds a bit like the child you mention

After repeated attempts at insistence of every professional, we now don't send him to football / rugby in the mainstream, he attends a SN group and has thrived in that field

It does take a while to get that your child can't cope, and every professional seems to want to convince you otherwise (why is that?), but your DH sounds like is doing everything right and it's Mum's responsibility now.

Only other option is to call a disability sport specialist (one council has one and they run a local fottie club) to see if they can advise or even offer a helper?

wasuup3000 Tue 09-Jun-09 14:16:17

I think your hubby is doing great. Football should be focused on the fun side and it wouldn't be fun for the team or for Jack if it turned into a Jack has to learn how to behave issue. It is a great achievement that he does so well at the football in itself anyway.

seeker Tue 09-Jun-09 22:07:37

``Thank you everybody - any more wise words gratefully accepted!

seeker Thu 11-Jun-09 06:39:10

Last bump - if no one has any other thoughts, I'll suggest that dp just carries on with the tactics he's been using up to now and also carries on trying to engage with the mother.

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