Newport County AFC is proud to support World Autism Awareness Week.
More than half a million people in the UK are diagnosed with autism, which is an invisible and often misunderstood disability, which can affect how people communicate and interact with the world.
Kelly Anderson says ‘I have two autistic children and see the challenges that they face daily. However, I also see the beautiful, funny, caring, loving and clever souls that they are. Seeing the world through their eyes has taught me a lot about patience, kindness and understanding.
My youngest also has a severe speech delay which is a co-morbidity of autism, and he did not speak until he was four years old. I learnt how to use British Sign Language to teach him an alternative way to communicate, along with PECS and coreboards for a total communication approach, with incredible support from the speech and language team and his amazing teachers and school. He is a sociable young man, with many friends, who is thriving.’
Newport County AFC supporter Luke DeGilbert says – ‘I don’t let my autism hold me back from doing things that I enjoy. It is all about being positive, enjoying life and achieving my goals. I get anxiety before doing something big such as playing in a football game, which causes me to have laughing fits.’
However, this hasn’t stopped Luke from being a volunteer at County in the Community, supporting the Junior Matchday Experience, playing football with the teams there and being a regular visitor in the audience at Soccer AM.
Luke continues ‘I really enjoy my interactions that I have with players and staff. I talk to Norman, Gareth, Mike, David and Kelly regularly about things and am comfortable in doing so.’
Many autistic people have sensory issues with noise, smells and bright lights, which can be painful and distressing. They can experience intense anxiety and extreme unease around unexpected change.
We have a great team of volunteers and staff who care for supporters on a match day here at Rodney Parade, and we would like to ensure that we are doing all we can to support those who may find accessing a match day challenging for various reasons. Here are some tips to help:
- Consider booking an aisle ticket which will allow you easy access and exit from the stands. This can be done online, or by contacting our ticketing team firstname.lastname@example.org
- Please let us know that you have disabilities and challenges accessing and inside the stadium. Between us, we can ensure that you are taken care of on a match day and during our events.
- We know that inside the stadium can be noisy, so we would recommend perhaps booking a seat in the Bisley Block A, where it is generally quieter and where we have ambulant disabled seating and will allow you easy access to the stadium entrance and exit.
- If you or someone else becomes overwhelmed inside the stadium, please let a steward know and they can take you to a safe and quieter space.
- We can provide families and individuals with access to social stories, an arranged visit to the stadium prior to a match day, and also an introduction to some stadium staff, so that you have a familiar face on a match day for support if needed.
We are working in preparation for next season to provide British Sign Language messaging for the big screen and on our website, to produce a video social story showing access to the ground , and also in providing coreboards and PECS cards for people with communication challenges.
We welcome ideas from our supporters about how we can change accessibility for supporters to have better access to support their team. We are looking to introduce a disabled supporters working group in the near future, where these ideas can be discussed and look at plans where we can possibly implement some of these ideas in the future as part of short, medium and long-term goals.
Above anything, we would like to be part of a community where everyone is supportive and accepting of each other and to progress to a place where we have a greater awareness and can provide greater care, compassion and understanding.