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I have been a squash coach for a long time and have encountered challenging youngsters in limited numbers out of the many hundreds, but my latest 'client' is a 17 year old who I am working with on a one-to-one basis, due to lack of social interaction and massive lack of confidence; I believe he has PDA/on the autistic spectrum (awaiting consultation and assessment). What are the best pointers to help me help him?
Hi Ian, you may be interested in the blog I wrote with Active for Autism, the National Autistic Society’s training and consultancy programme, on including people with autism in your coaching sessions. There is a lot of expert advice in there and some good feedback from members below too. Here is the link...
I have coached a few children / teens who have been on the spectrum and although their needs differed considerably the main constant between them all was the preference for routine. So I would always warm them up in the same way, with the same skills and then progress on to the harder elements.
I also used to praise regularly to help confidence levels and progressed skills by increasing the difficulty slowly. I found asking their opinion, eg. "we are going to do X today, so would you like to start with Y or Z first before we do that?" meant that they knew what was coming but without the lack of control.
Hope that helps somewhat :)
Thank you, Dannielle. Yes, I always start with a decent warm-up, that progresses with increments at each session, e.g. lunges 20, 30 then 40, etc. Also, I discuss what aspects to cover at each session. Biggest challenge is literal interpretation and not explaining why I am doing a feeding routine, e.g. “I am going to hit the ball to the same place” is translated as a short cut for not moving properly! Tremendous learning for me, but I’ve got time and patience!
A further update which I would like to share with you; this is the strategy I have developed:
Number One – I listen more and observe more closely body language
Number Two – Improvisation and preparedness to change a coaching method is key
Number Three – More demonstrations, less verbal instructions (Carl prefers to watch movie clips)
Number Four – Use colours and/or shapes, instead of numbers
Number Five – Increase repetitive routines, but maintain fun elements
Number Six – Targets for personal achievement either are not applied or minimalized
Number Seven – Never argue or challenge a viewpoint or resistance; invite suggestions
Number Eight – Always praise, NEVER say, “Don’t do it that way
Naturally, still work-in-progress and I would appreciate any feedback or additions.
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