"It's good to see a smile on my son's face"

As it is Autism awareness week (30th March to 5thApril 2020) we thought we would share with you a little about Ryan’s journey with us.

Autism Awareness week is promoted by the National Autistic Society (NAS). World Autism Awareness Day as described by NAS is “an internationally recognised day taking place on 2 April every year. In the week of 30 March – 5 April surrounding this day, we encourage the public to take part in World Autism Awareness Week – a full seven days where people across the UK take part in activities to raise money and awareness for the National Autistic Society.”

Ryan, who attends the Pan Ability programme is able to do so due to funding given by EFL Trust and Wembley National Stadium Trust to deliver the Every Player Counts programme.

The aim of EFL Trusts ‘The Every Player Counts’ programme is for the (28) clubs that currently participate, BFCCT being one of them, to deliver, “activity covering a wide range of disability programmes including wheelchair football, football for visual impairment, learning difficulties, amputees and autism, giving many disabled people access to football for the first time.”

As this is the case Ryan is able to participate in his favourite sport, football. Here is some of his story:

Ryan Thwaites, 21 years old, attends our Pan Ability Monday Football session, at Play football Garstang Road.

Before the session commenced, which began on the 24th February 2020, Ryan was eager for the sessions to start as was his mum. His mum had been looking for a place to take Ryan to football sessions as she’d struggled to find somewhere for him to train during the week. As Ryan has Autism his mum wanted to take him somewhere where his disability would be catered for. The only other place he goes to football training is once a week at Blackpool Bears Multi Disability Sports Club on a Saturday, but Ryan wanted to train during the week too.

In the weeks leading up to the start of the first session Ryan repeatedly asked Paul, our Disability Officer, “when’s the footy starting?”

In addition to the football sessions Ryan got to attend, alongside others from the Monday session, the Blackpool vs Ipswich home game on the 29thFeb 2020. He was there on the day not only helping to promote the new Pan Ability football session, but also to support ‘Level Playing Fields: Week of Action’.

As part of this, Ryan got to be in a guard of honour for the players coming on the pitch and got a match ticket to watch the game. His mum, who accompanied him said on the day, “It’s good to see a smile on my sons face”.

“Now the sessions are up and running Ryan loves coming to the Monday Pan Ability football. When Monday comes round I am sure to know it’s Monday not by the calendar, but by Ryan telling me “footy tonight mum”.

His mum said she notices when he’s at the session as “his anxiety eases and his confidence shines through”. He also did some promotion for the sessions at his college and now a friend from college also attends.

Paul, the coach who runs the session said, “it’s a pleasure having Ryan come along, I look forward to seeing him. As soon as he comes in the hall there’s a massive grin on his face. He just loves football and I know from conversations I’ve had with himself, his mum and brother, how much he loves coming”