Teaching Kids With Autism How to Play Soccer

Playing soccer can improve many skills

Many kids with autism can learn to play soccer, but they'll likely need extra support and visual tools. Soccer can help improve your child's motor skills, endurance, strength, and coordination. Playing on a team also gives your child a chance to work on social skills and communication with his or her teammates. Here are some tips to help your child learn to play soccer or include kids with autism in your soccer games. 

Including Children with Autism in Your Soccer Game

soccer ball in front of face
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Here's what it takes to include a child with autism in a game of soccer:

  • 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 some visuals to help break down the information.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Children with autism have a tough time reading body language. You will likely need to explain how to tell that another child is ready for the ball or about to pass the ball to them.

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 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!

Teach How 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.

Teach How 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 ​into the goal. Be sure children fully understand the reasons for kicking the ball into the goal (to score points for their team). Be sure, too, that they understand the idea that you will change goals at halftime.

Teach How 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 into the goal. Be sure children can recognize teammates 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 ​into the future. Discuss the idea that teamwork involves sharing the ball, not just running down the field like crazy.

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Article Sources
  • Autism Soccer. 10 Reasons to Enroll Your Kid. 2017.