Autism Awareness Month: A Message from Coach Tim

Tim Jantzen

Hi Soccer Family!  Those of you who have been with us for a while may have seen this little girl right here—my Jemma.  You may have seen her dribble around a little bit then sit back down as more kids arrive to play; you may have seen her spinning around and talking to herself in the middle of the field; you may have even witnessed an epic meltdown.

What you may not have seen is the invisible disability that is #Autism.  You may have seen behaviors that look like disengagement, inattentiveness, or tantrums when really it was likely a coping strategy for a sensory overload, a struggle to transition, or the inability to communicate a want or a need, or all of the above.  As Jemma's dad and a coach to hundreds of children in the soccer community, I am compelled to advocate and to bring awareness so that one day my daughter and other individuals with autism can live a full life with acceptance and connectedness.

During my time with HappyFeet, I've spoken to several families with children on the spectrum— they want to get involved, but fear that it may overload their child or that every transition is going to result in a meltdown.  Let me be the first to say that I know how uneasy it feels.  I know the overpowering protectiveness you feel, the worries you harbor, and the desire you have to get your child involved in group activties to provide social interaction.

We serve AMAZING communities of inclusive families, and our hope is this...To the families with neurotypical children: Continue raising kind, accepting, inclusive children!  You bring families like ours hope, and we are truly thankful for your kindness and understanding!  To the families with neurodiverse children: Bring your children out!  From our own journey, we can personally attest that even if your child never touches a ball, you still gave them a new experience, only coming that much closer to participation!  You're not alone and you have our support!

To ALL of our families: Thank you for making The Beautiful Game more beautiful!