A devout young Harlequins fan with Autism found ‘salvation’ at a half-term camp where he met his idol Chris Robshaw.
Will Anderson, who was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) aged six and now lives in Kingston upon Thames, attended rugby camp at The Stoop in October and flourished so much he won the player of the camp award.
As an ardent Harlequins fan since the age of nine it was a dream come true for 13-year-old Will when he and his peers got to attend a Harlequins training session before learning to play the game he loves.
Will’s mother Jennie said: “Because of his ASD, Will sometimes struggles with interaction and finds it difficult to follow complex instructions so it’s really important that the guidance and teaching that he receives is clear and concise.
“Rugby has been Will’s salvation. It has improved his physical coordination, fitness and strength and, more importantly, he finds the clear instructions and rules brilliant.
“Rugby has given him a chance to be with people his own age, and it has given him confidence both on and off the pitch.
“I was thrilled to see Will awarded the prize for player of the camp, I loved seeing the applause and high fives from the other players he received.”
ASD can make communication and interaction difficult, as well as potentially making instructions hard to follow.
Providing provision for people with ASD is therefore a unique challenge, but Jennie praised the camp’s coaches for rising to the challenge and providing an environment Will thrived in.
She said: “Arriving at the camp and not knowing anyone was really difficult for him but he soon began to settle in.
“I couldn’t recommend the coaching staff more highly, they were brilliant in making Will feel at ease, particularly when they could see that he was nervous.
“All the coaches are from a teaching background, so they knew exactly how to instruct Will in a straight forward way that he could understand easily.
“He loved getting stuck into all the games and drills and worked on his tackling skills throughout the week without any fear or reservation.”
The opportunity to interact with people and a space where bespoke instructions are delivered for particular needs is invaluable for people with ASD because it allows them to learn work-skills and decreases isolation.
Jennie believes the social opportunities the camp afforded Will as well as the transferable skills learnt will have a significant effect on his life.
The Harlequins February half-term rugby camp takes place at the Twickenham Stoop from Monday, February 12 until Wednesday, February 14. For more information visit: http://www.rugbycamps.co.uk/harlequins or contact the team on: [email protected]