BURTON Albion Community Trust celebrates autism acceptance week

AS part of Autism Acceptance week, Burton Albion Community Trust (BACT) is highlighting the journey of one of its participants.

Burton Albion Community Trust (BACT) was established in 2010 and one of its very first participants was Connor Wheeler. Born with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), he was a shy and nervous 5 year old.

“When I first started at Burton Albion I really struggled with my confidence and self-esteem and always felt I was different to everyone else. Playing football was somewhere I felt safe and could be myself, especially when my brother and sister joined in the sessions too. As BACT grew, more sessions became available and after playing in mainstream holiday camps I found my place in the Able Too Albion disability football sessions where I represented BACT from junior to adult age groups.

“When things get too much for me, I sometimes go into complete meltdown. It’s happened on sessions before, ask any of the coaches. Being part of a football team has helped me to manage this more. It’s also helped me to become calmer and also improved my communication skills massively.”

As BACT has grown, so has Connor’s involvement. From after-school sessions to holiday clubs, Junior Brewers, and then as he got older, the disability sessions. He has recently started a work experience placement in schools and on sessions, as well as spending time in an office environment, something he never thought he’d ever be able to do.

BACT’s Disability Coordinator Charles Sketchley has seen Connor grow up massively in the last few years.

“Connor’s journey with BACT has gone complete full circle. From starting his journey with us playing in the disability sessions to now coaching the junior team. He loves coaching and sees it as giving something back to others. He’s a shining example and really understands some of the barriers the kids on the sessions face. “

Connor’s Mum Sam, who also has participated in BACT’s female participation teams for over five years, praised the mutual impact BACT and Connor have on each other.

“When he was younger, Connor had difficulties running or kicking a ball, hence the suggestion he attend the sessions.

“Without the involvement and support of BACT’s fantastic coaches and staff, it’s difficult to imagine whether his development, both physically and emotionally, would have improved so much – he’s doing things now I could never have imagined he would do – including studying for his Level 1 coaching qualification.

“He has also benefited from being around the staff in the office – enjoying the ‘banter’ and comradery that you would expect in any workplace. The staff have always accepted him for who he is, and this has increased his confidence and social skills immeasurably.”