The IRFU has confirmed a new partnership with Middletown Centre for Autism, ahead of World Autism Day on April 2nd, to deliver bespoke training to coaches and volunteers.

The aim of the training is to ensure that the coaches and volunteers involved in delivering the game in local communities all over Ireland have an awareness and understanding of the experiences of autistic players, so that they can best support them to thrive.

Middletown Centre was established in 2007 by The Department of Education and Skills in Ireland and the Department of Education in Northern Ireland to support the promotion of excellence in both jurisdictions in the education of autistic children and young people.

It works on a referral basis providing learning support for individual pupils, as well as a full programme of online and face-to-face training for parents and professionals.

It provides a range of research-based resources including an online journal and a biennial international conference. 

All rugby clubs across the island are being offered the opportunity to take part in five weekly online sessions that cover content specifically relating to autism such as learning styles and visual teaching methods, communication, sensory processing, anxiety management and reframing behaviour.

“Autistic children and young people are entitled to the same chance to develop their skills and abilities both on the rugby pitch and in their communities,” said Middletown CEO Stephen Douthart.

“The programme, developed in collaboration with autistic individuals, parents, coaches and rugby players, has the potential to create understanding and competent environments for autistic players of all ages to enjoy and participate fully in their sport, both on and off the pitch.”

“As a national governing body, we are focused on growing participation at all levels of the game, and we believe that people of all abilities have a place in our sport,” added David McKay, the IRFU’s Disability and Inclusion Officer.

“We are excited to offer this training with Middletown so that we can equip all our coaches and volunteers to support players that see the world differently to reach their full potential within a supportive rugby environment.”


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