Fencing 4 Change is a programme delivered in partnership with the Change Foundation that uses the art of fencing to reduce the risk of social isolation for young people aged 11 – 16 with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Fencing 4 Change provides fencing sessions in after school clubs across London for young people with ASD and uses creative coaching methodology to encourage integration, develop motor skills and provide a unique experience for young people who may never access fencing, or don’t engage with mainstream sports.
The programme is delivered by Coach Mentors from the Change Foundation, with lived experience who can guide and coach these young people and lead by example. Fencing 4 Change sessions provide an inclusive and accessible environment ensuring that all young people feel welcome and comfortable which is a known barrier when trying a new sport.
We have work collaboratively with the Change Foundation to co-create a specific coaching programme that is active, artistic, and inclusive.
Virginia Bailey, Participation Director said, “Over the years we have received so many positive stories from parents of children and young people with ASD who have been fortunate to get the opportunity to engage with fencing. Over time, we want to create many more opportunities for children and young people with ASD to have a great experience with fencing and maximise the positive impact it can have on their lives. We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Change Foundation to bring this programme to life.”
During the pilot phase of the project, we worked with the University of Hertfordshire to conduct the initial research through various methods including activity questionnaires, testing physiological reaction times, motion capture and interviews with coaches.
The findings from the initial pilot concluded that the fencing intervention delivered by coaches from the Change Foundation, shows improvements within core physiological aspects of children with ASD and impacts their everyday skills.
With over a quarter (28%) of respondents to the 2023 BF Equality Survey indicating that they were neurodiverse, we will be using our learnings to help create more inclusive environments in fencing. In September 2023, Daniel Mynott from the Change Foundation and BF’s Inclusion Officer Rick Rodgers, delivered a webinar to share learnings from the project with the fencing community.
The partnership has now developed a 24 week framework for delivery across a further six schools in London. BF continue to offer support to the existing coaches through coach development training days, where new ideas are tested and the skills of the coaches are developed.
In 2024, we hope to secure further funding to grow the programme outside of London and support more coaches across the UK.
We will also be applying the learning from the project to other areas of work within BF, in light of the high levels of reported neurodiversity across the membership, looking at ways to improve our products and services to better meet the needs of our members.
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