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Your Dollars @ Work: Helping Coaches Support Athletes with Autism

A 2013 Autism Speaks Family Services Community Grant provided funding to Wayne State University's Adapted Sports program to develop a coaching education curriculum, as well as train four lead trainers to support coaches of and programs for athletes with autism.

Share this with coaches near you to teach them to best support children and adults so that programs can be effective and FUN for everyone!

Sports programs are a great way for children and adults with autism to get involved in their local community. The experience can be very positive, expanding social skills, improving behavior and providing a greater sense of independence. A major factor in terms of the effect a sports program can have is the coach. Behind their parents, many youth report that the most influence person in their lives is their coach!

In 2013, Autism Speaks provided a grant to Wayne State University Adapted Sports program to develop a curriculum that would help train physical education and sport professionals to provide instruction to children with ASD using established evidence-based practices (e.g., social narratives, video modeling, visual supports, etc.). The goal of this collaboration is to help young athletes with ASD develop the independence, socialization and physical skills needed to access existing community- and school-based sports programming with their age appropriate peers.

The success of the program is reflected by the following quote from a parent of a child with ASD who transitioned from our program to a community-based swim program with the assistance of one of our lead trainers/coaches commented, "Thank you for making sure our kids have these wonderful opportunities to be athletes!! Yeah Athletes."

To properly train coaches, the curriculum is divided into 4 lessons which you can download below!

Coaching Principles and Best Practices

The first lesson provides an overview of the importance of coaching and tips to be an effective and supportive coach. The lesson is broken down into 4 critical words of wisdom: Be Effective, Be Intentional, Be a Role Model and Be Safe.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

This important overview of autism also includes information about how autism impacts athletes with autism in the areas of socialization, communication and behavior.

What Strategies Work When Teaching and Coaching Individuals with ASD?

This lesson goes over how to use evidence-based practices in athletic settings. These practices centered around using communication systems and schedules, creating opportunities through the visual environment, understanding behavior, peer training and much more.

Inclusive Programming that Supports ALL Learners

This lesson teaches coaches how to provide accommodations and instructional supports to athletes with autism. These supports include using reinforcement as a teaching tool, teaching skills through task analysis, addressing sensory needs and more.

The full training website can be accessed by going to

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.