Autism Awareness Day: Dec’s story

Dec: “If you really want something and work hard, then you can do anything.”

Student, volunteer and member of Bristol City Robins Foundation’s award-winning youth council, Dec Stone, hasn’t let autism stop him from making a positive change in his community and he continues to inspire those around him.

Dec says: “People shouldn’t really see autism as a disability or think that just because someone is autistic it means that they cannot do things. If you really want something and work hard, then you can do anything.”

Dec was selected to be part of the Robins Foundation’s Youth Council – a body of eight young people who use their understanding of challenges faced by the local community to help shape the Foundation’s delivery. Whilst Dec was a shy and introverted individual to start with, he quickly grew in confidence and has become a central member of the council over the four years in which he has been a member.

Over this period the Council have helped the Robins Foundation launch initiatives such as the award winning free female fitness & football hub and a social inclusion session in an area of deprivation within Bristol. This provision now engages with over 80 young people per session and has a resulted in a drastic reduction in criminal activity in the area that it operates in.

The incredible work of Dec and the rest of the Youth Council has been recognised at a national level with the body of youngsters picking up awards from both the EFL and the FA.

Dec’s involvement with the Robins Foundation however does not stop there as he also studies with the Foundation on its unique Sports Media education course. Dec has thrived on this course and was commended for his hard work and dedication at last year’s Foundation education awards evening.

In addition to this, Dec also volunteers on a number of the Robins Foundation’s projects including the social inclusion session – which he and the youth council played a pivotal role in establishing – and the Foundation’s disability football project.

Dec is an inspiration to the participants of the disability football project where he acts as a role model to the youngsters who attend the sessions.

Jenny, a parent of one of the participants at Bristol City Robins Foundation’s disability football project, said: “My son Sean – who has autism – has not engaged in anything before, but he loves coming to the football sessions with the Robins Foundation.

“The team are fantastic, in particular Declan, who could really relate to Sean. Declan made him them feel at ease and took away any pressure.”

Janice, a grandparent of another one of the youngsters at the Robins Foundation’s disability football sessions commented: “My grandson is autistic and thoroughly enjoys his time at the Foundation’s Tuesday evening disability session. It gives him the opportunity to do a sport that would otherwise not be available to him.

“The staff are so patient with the children, it’s a pleasure to watch the children engage with them whist teaching them new skills and not being judged because of their special needs.”

Dec told the Foundation: “When I first started at the Youth Council, I was way out of my comfort zone. However, I did not let this dissuade me from perusing my goals, and I am so proud of all that we have achieved.”



Autism Awareness Day: Matthew’s story

“He has always been made to feel as though he belongs there and this has given him the confidence to talk in a group which hasn’t always been easy for him.”


Matthew attends Derby County Community Trust’s weekly ‘Ability Counts’ sessions as part of the Every Player Counts network which provides inclusive sessions for all. This session has a particular focus on supporting participants with autism.

The Every Player Counts programme funded by EFL Trust and Wembley National Stadium Trust covers 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.

Matthew’s parents said, “Matthew has been attending football training sessions with Derby County Community Trust since he was around 11 years old and has enjoyed it so much is still going eight years later. He really looks forward to going and loves scoring goals and also the celebrations.

“He has always felt comfortable with the staff and loves telling them about his passion for Derby County and football in general. He has always been made to feel as though he belongs there and this has given him the confidence to talk in a group which hasn’t always been easy for him.

“He now seems to enjoy it as much for the social interaction as he does for the football. We feel he gets a lot from the sessions as he seems more animated and talkative afterwards.”

Matt added that he likes taking penalties and the warm up sessions. He remembers when two of the Derby County players came to one of the sessions and he got to play football with them.

Staff at Derby County Community Trust are really proud of Matthew’s development throughout the years he’s been involved.

Stuart Asquith, Inclusion Officer at the Trust, said: “So many of our sessions are about much more than football and the way Matt has grown in confidence since he first started has been amazing. He continues to be an important part of the group and supports us as coaches too and we hope to have the pleasure of his company for many years to come!”


Nadine: “I’ve gone from being shy and not wanting to leave the house, to getting active and being part of a team.”


After finding herself unemployed for over a year, Nadine was determined not to let her Austistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) get in the way of her ambitions.

Nadine enrolled on an Employability and Skills project with Cardiff City FC Foundation, which provides young people with support to develop their personal and social skills.

The project gave Nadine the experience and confidence to make the successful transition back into employment, and in-turn, become less isolated.

“Being part of the Foundation has changed me; they’ve accepted me for who I am. I’ve gone from being a shy person with anxiety and not wanting to leave the house to getting active and being part of a team.”

Nadine is now a part-time member of the Foundation team. She is thriving in her role as an Inclusion Project Worker, supporting children and young people with a disability.

Using sport as a tool, she helps to improve their physical health, social interaction and confidence levels.


Bristol Rovers set football aside for the community


There is no surprise that Bristol Rovers Community Trust was handed the title ‘Bristol Life Award Winner’ back in 2018, due to its fantastic work in the community. Since that award, they have gone from strength to strength over the years, and have once again made it their duty to go that extra mile.

No-one could have predicted the effect that the coronavirus would have had on the world in the first place, but when times are hard everyone pulls together and Chief Executive of the Bristol Rovers Community Trust, Adam Tutton, has one simple message: ‘this is more than football’.  

“I am a born and bred Bristolian; this means a lot and it is in instances like this where people need to step up and be counted,” he said. 

“I am lucky enough to work with a lot of people who are like that, and what I think this is showing is that Community Trusts are more than just football. These are the times where Community Trusts need to stand up and be counted.  

“In terms of the stuff ourselves and the club are doing, we have suggested that we have a look at season ticket holders that are 70 and above, as well as our extra-time club that is open to over 60s and what we are doing for all of those, we are making up food parcels which will have essentials in, and everyone will get a Rovers scarf as well, which will hopefully give them a bit of a smile.  

“The Community Trust will deliver those to the people’s front doors in the coming weeks; I am a community man at heart, and this means more to me than the football does if I am being honest. One of the schools we have been helping out is about 500 meters away from Bristol City’s Ashton Gate, so it makes absolutely no difference.”  

As well as setting out an action plan for the older supporters of the football club, the Community Trust has also been helping the younger generation of its community, bagging up dinners for those who are eligible for free ones when they are at school, and with that they have also been delivering resources that will help the children while they are being home-schooled.  

“We have had a lot of schools contact us to help them distribute free school meals; the first school we went to had 170 students who had free school meals. The school had all of this food and they needed to get it out, so we helped bag them up and take them out to the students,” he added.  

“We’ve been doing a lot of delivering resources such as pens, pencils, drawing papers; literally anything that we could fit into the back of the minibus. It’s like a school away from school, really, so that has been one of the main focuses for us at the moment.”  

Conversations are still ongoing between the Trust and Bristol City Council, who Adam contacted towards the start of last week to offer out their services, and he is keen to help in whatever way he can to those organisations that need it.  

“We have quite close links with the Bristol City Council in terms of the Community Trust, so I contacted them and basically offered our services out to them in any capacity that was needed, really. I was trying to put us at the forefront of a city-wide approach to what is going on,” he said.  

“From that, we got a phone call from the Director of People Services from the Council and they linked us up with a few charities in the first instance. We went heavy on social media saying that we were out to help, on the back of that. 

 “So we are still waiting on that call from the local authorities as well as the NHS who have approached us also. I said to them that we will literally help them with anything, whether it is giving nurses a lift to and from the hospital; literally anything that we can do, we will.” 

Autism Awareness Week: Hannah’s story

This week is Autism Awareness Week. We kick off the week with a great story from Fulham FC Foundation…

Hannah, who has Autism, has not only built up her self-esteem and confidence with Fulham FC Foundation but is also well on her way of achieving her dreams of becoming a fully qualified football coach.

The 28 year-old first started with Fulham FC Foundation as a volunteer just over six years ago. At the time, the Foundation was looking for volunteers to help on the Active Autism Programme. Despite having no prior experience working with children, and being nervous about the changes to her schedule, Hannah stepped up to take on the role.

She said: “When I first started to volunteer, of course I was scared and nervous at the same time, as I didn’t know how the children would be with having a new face around. After a few months I got used to it and so did the kids.”

Hannah became a regular, reliable face at Active Autism sessions, and after a few years of coaching, Hannah was given the opportunity to complete her Level 1 in Football Coaching.

Reflecting on the opportunity, Hannah commented: “When I got told that I was able to do the Level 1 in Football Coaching course I was over the moon, scared and nervous as I thought I wasn’t going to get through it and pass… but I did!”

Participants attending Hannah’s sessions have developed immensely in the time that she’s been coaching. The chance to take part in sessions that are tailored to their needs means a great deal to the participants, as well as the coaches.

For Hannah this became something very personal, helping her to develop her own skills as a coach and build her self-esteem and self-confidence.

She added: “Being involved with these sessions means so much to me, as they boost up my confidence, which I didn’t have much before.

“This also gives me a chance to achieve my dream to become a fully qualified football coach and work with kids with special needs.”

Ahead of the 2018/19 season, Hannah completed a Coach Assessment to become an Assistant Coach at the Foundation. Since September, she’s become a staple in delivering disability provision in SEN and mainstream schools, as well as supporting Pan Disability Football Hubs.

“Now that I have been given the chance to have my work increased, it is very exciting and somewhat scary at times,” she explained. “I work in a mainstream school as an assistant coach, but I’m used to working with children with additional needs.

“I believe that the more sessions I do, the more confident I will get. In the future, I would like to be able to proceed onto the Level 2 course and also be able to run my own sessions without any help, but that that will take time.”


Richard’s story – ShrewsAbility


Steve Hammond, father of Richard, has spoken of the amazing opportunities his son has explored through Shrewsbury Town in the Community’s ShrewsAbility.

Through the Every Player Counts programme funded by Wembley National Stadium Trust and EFL Trust, the ShrewsAbility Down’s syndrome football scheme creates a multi-tier learning environment that improves the participants’ overall physical, social and emotional health.

Richard Hammond has been a regular ShrewsAbility member since the sessions first launched in 2016.

 “Before taking part, Richard struggled to trap or strike a ball properly. It’s amazing to see the difference and how much he has developed, he’s so comfortable at doing these things now and has built his intelligence of the game.

“I feel so happy and grateful to see my son enjoy playing football just like I did when I was younger.

“Not only has he enhanced his football skills, he’s also formed new friendships and his self-esteem has improved.

“These sessions make you look at what everyone is able to do and not what they can’t – you see people’s abilities, not their disability.”

Apart from football, Richard is also an avid gymnast and swimmer and in 2011 he represented Team GB at the Special Olympics in Athens, winning two Silver Medals and one Bronze Medal in artistic gymnastics.

Since ShrewsAbility launched, the session has had an aggregate attendance of 464 participants across all disability sessions.

95% of participants have stated that there has been an improvement in their mental well being since attending the sessions.

William’s story – Charlton Upbeats


The Charlton Upbeats programme uses football to help aid and support young people with Down’s syndrome. The Upbeats have competed in a number of tournaments in the UK and abroad and are nine-times DS Active National champions.

100% of parents would recommend the Charlton Upbeats to any family with children with Down’s syndrome.

The project is focused not just on football, but is also about raising aspirations and improving relationships and social skills.


William Cottrell, one of over 170 young people registered with the Charlton Upbeats project, has been a member since it first started in 2008.

Since then, his sporting career has gone from strength to strength…and not just on the football field.

Thanks to the confidence William has developed with Upbeats, in 2009, he represented Great Britain in the Special Olympics Winter Games in Idaho, where he won a bronze medal in Skiing.

A decade later, he was one of eight British athletes to be selected to represent his country in golf at the 2019 Special World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.

On March 20th 2019, to a roar of applause William stepped proudly onto the podium to receive his silver Special Olympics medal in golf.

His Mum, Elizabeth said: “It is a well well-earned prize, not only for the performance over the previous days’ competition but for the hours of practise, the refining of skill and the determination to always do his best.”

“Football has the ability to change lives” – Scott Minto

The annual EFL Day of Action takes place on Tuesday, as all EFL Clubs come together on one day to demonstrate the impact football can have in positively changing people’s lives. Read more