Using football to empower young people with autism


Liam, a Year 9 pupil at Bitterne Park School, has developed his confidence and self-esteem with the help of one of our amazing Community Champions.

Fraser is one of nine Community Champions working full-time in local secondary schools. A key part of his role is to build relationships with students who struggle in a traditional school environment, including young people with autism.

Students at Bitterne Park School’s Autism Resource Base (ARB) have benefited from working with Fraser, who has used the shining example of Southampton FC’s first team to develop their confidence and teamwork skills.

One young person that Fraser has been working with is Liam, a Year 9 student who has been attending the ARB since 2019. Liam lacked in confidence and self-esteem when he joined the school, but his passion for football meant he instantly struck a strong bond with the Community Champion.

Liam’s mum Susan said: “Liam has really come out of his shell since working alongside Fraser. Gaining trust with him has made Liam more confident in himself and helped him set out his goals for the future.”

“Fraser has been working with Liam for a while now and the difference we’ve seen in him is amazing,” added Lynsey, Liam’s lead worker at the school. “Now he will participate in group discussions within the classroom and voice his experiences and opinions."

To recognise Liam’s huge progress, we invited him to join Saints midfielder Nathan Tella for a special game of FIFA. He overcame his nerves to speak with Nathan via headset for between 20 and 30 minutes – an amazing achievement for Liam and one that left him feeling even more confident.

“After his game with Nathan, Liam told his mum that he felt much less anxious and that the experience was one he’d never forget,” Lynsey added. “Nathan giving his time to talk to Liam has prompted him to take the big next step to start playing football within the community.

Thank you to Fraser and Bitterne Park School, whose support of young people with autism helps them achieve their potential as healthy and empowered individuals in our community.