Wigan and Leigh sports clubs back plan to make games autism friendly

Wigan and Leigh sports clubs back plan to make games autism friendly

Autism Friends flag on the pitch at the DW Stadium

The ‘Autism Friends’ flag on the pitch at the DW Stadium this week

The three top sports teams in Wigan Borough have backed an initiative to improve the match day experience for residents with autism.

Wigan Warriors, Wigan Athletic and Leigh Centurions are all working in partnership with Wigan Council to create autism-friendly stadiums.

The clubs will be improving the experience for residents by offering supporters the opportunity to borrow ear defenders, all head stewards have undertaken autism friends training and supporters can enter the stadium using the side entrance as opposed to the turnstiles.

At Leigh Sports Village there is a virtual video tour of the stadium available for people to view before going to a match so they can familiarise themselves with where they will be going.

At their match on 31st March, Wigan Warriors are offering £10 tickets with a donation from each ticket going to local autism initiatives.

James Winterbottom, Director of Children’s Services at Wigan Council, says,

‘This is a fantastic initiative and I hope it will offer more families in the borough the chance to attend matches and support their favourite teams. We have achieved some very positive changes in our ambition to become an autism friendly borough and although we know that we still have lots to do, this is a brilliant step in the right direction.’

Tom Flower, Head of Community at Wigan Athletic, says,

‘Wigan Athletic Football Club works hard to be as inclusive as possible and are delighted to be involved in Autism Friends in partnership with Wigan Council. Ear defenders and the Blue Room for the club’s junior disabled supporters are just some of the services available to Latics fans on match days at the DW Stadium, and we encourage any supporters or family members with autism to come forward with suggestions on how we can build on our offer.’

To celebrate World Autism Week (1st – 7th April) there are also a range of activities taking place across the borough to celebrate and raise awareness of autism.

To date more than 4,000 people have taken part in a unique one hour awareness session that helps people to learn more about autism. The session includes a number of fun and interactive exercises and all attendees are invited to pledge to do something positive to help make Wigan a more autism friendly place.

The sessions are co-produced and co-delivered by people with autism.

Virtual tours of key public buildings including shopping centres, leisure centres and schools, reducing anxiety for people with autism and creating opportunities, have also been created.

The borough is also encouraging businesses to take part in the Autism Hour by doing things such as turning down the music or dimming the lights for 60 minutes or to sign up as an autism friendly business.

This bold and pioneering approach underpins Wigan’s ambition to become one of the first autism friendly towns in the UK.

A new website is launching with useful information for people with autism, friends, family, carers and professionals.

See the new Autism Friendly website (external link).

An autism friendly alert card can be downloaded from the website for people with autism to help them communicate.

Wigan’s Adult Autism Partnership Board were recently awarded an Autism Professional Award by the National Autistic Society in recognition of their commitment to making Wigan a more autism friendly borough.

Posted on Wednesday 3rd April 2019
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