Teaching Soccer to Children with Autism

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Prepare to Include Children with Autism in Your Soccer Game

soccer ball in front of face
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What does it take to include a child with autism in a game of soccer? Here are a few hints and tips:

  • Know that children with autism can have a tough time processing language. That means that if you say something once, they probably won't take in your meaning and respond. You'll need to say the same thing several times, and use visuals to help break down the information.
  • Know that children with autism have a hard time imitating. That means that telling a child with autism to "watch me and do what I do" may not be effective. You may need to give him step-by-step instruction, providing physical and visual help as you go along.
  • Know that children with autism may not have the same level of strength or coordination as other children their age. Even if they don't do a terrific job of dribbling or passing, it's important to provide positive feedback and constructive support.
  • Know that children with autism have a tough time reading body language. You may need to tell them how to tell that another child is ready for the ball or about to pass the ball to them.

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Teach the Real Basics of Soccer

Visuals for Teaching Soccer Basics. Explorations Unlimited LLC

What is a soccer ball? What is a goal? What are you supposed to do with the ball, and how? The answers to these questions may seem obvious, but for children with autism, it's often important to show and tell even the basics. That's partly because kids on the spectrum may not have the same opportunities as other kids to watch and learn -- they're too busy with therapy!

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Teach Children with Autism to Dribble a Soccer Ball

Visuals for Teaching Dribbling Skills. Explorations Unlimited LLC

Use this poster to provide a visual reference for the process of dribbling. Make sure children understand that they're to use one foot after the other, keeping control at all times.

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Teach Children with Autism to Kick a Soccer Ball

Visuals for Teaching Kicking Skills. Explorations Unlimited LLC

Use this poster to provide a visual reference for the process of kicking a ball in to the goal. Be sure children fully understand the reasons for kicking the ball in to the goal (to score points for their team). Be sure, too, that they understand the idea that you will change goals at halftime!

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Teach Children with Autism to Pass a Soccer Ball

Visuals for Teaching Passing Skills. Explorations Unlimited LLC

Use this poster to provide a visual reference for the process of kicking a ball in to the goal. Be sure children can recognize team mates and have mastered the complex skill of making eye contact to telegraph "I'm about to pass this ball to you." Help them to predict where the ball needs to be (or will be) several seconds in to the future. Discuss the idea that teamwork involves sharing the ball -- not just running down the field like crazy!

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