Sports students team up with HOPE for Autism in innovative new partnership

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Sports students from New College Lanarkshire are being trained in working with young people with autism as part of an innovative new partnership.

HND Coaching and Developing Sport students from our Motherwell Campus participated in autism awareness training with staff from HOPE for Autism, an Airdrie-based charity that widens opportunities for autistic youngsters.

The training equipped the 24 students and five staff who took part with knowledge of how to tailor sporting activities for autistic children and teenagers, which they will then put into practice in the New Year.

The partnership is the latest stage of the College’s Project Innovation programme, which is designed to give students practical experience in projects that directly benefit the local community.

Students from a number of courses in the Faculty of Engineering & Automotive have already installed a fence, a state-of-the-art CCTV system and redecorated Bellshill & Mossend YMCA.

Similarly, Pre-Apprenticeship Construction students helped with renovations of Orbiston Childcare Centre in Bellshill and students from the Second Chance Construction course built furniture for Monklands Women’s Aid refuge homes.

Project Innovation is the brainchild of Innovation Lecturer David Scott, who said he has witnessed a transformation in students who carry out hands-on work in the community.

He said: “I’ve loved doing charitable work because the excitement that our students get out of doing real-life projects is unbelievable.

“I found the autism awareness training quite inspirational because I can now adapt my lessons to be more suited to the individuals I’m teaching.

“It’s very likely that our Sports students will come across autistic people and this training helps them adapt their sessions to make them beneficial to everyone.”

Students were trained in the ways that children are affected by an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is estimated to affect one in ten people.

They gained an understanding of the ways they can include and support people with autism and will begin a programme of coaching youngsters who attend the HOPE Centre in the New Year as part of their coursework.

The coaching sessions will also help them as they undertake an ‘Inclusive Sports Coaching’ unit next semester.

Jim Griffin, Curriculum and Quality Leader for Sport & Fitness, said: “This was an excellent opportunity for staff and students to keep up-to-date with contemporary knowledge.

“The training raised their awareness, which will enable them to provide a quality experience of coaching sports skills whilst promoting health and wellbeing.

“The feedback from the students was very positive and around eight students offered to volunteer with HOPE for Autism in the New Year.”

Every week, HOPE for Autism offers fun, educational activities to more than 200 young people aged 2–25-years-old at its Centre in Chapel Street.

Eileen Waugh, Chief Executive Officer of HOPE for Autism, said: “Project Innovation is a fantastic concept and our work so far has been very worthwhile.

“The students will be supporting our children and young people to reduce their isolation from the community and to attend the HOPE Centre to be with friends and have fun.

“Partnerships like this are extremely important to our work at HOPE for Autism primarily in raising awareness.

“If people are able to gain a better understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder, they are better able to provide support and acceptance.

“We are always looking for new volunteers to support the children and families to be able to take part in activities and feel part of their community.”

For more information on HOPE for Autism, visit www.hopeforautism.org.uk

If you know of any organisation that could benefit from Project Innovation, please email david.scott@nclan.ac.uk or call 01698 232593.

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