The more mainstream clubs should also be inclusive and be able to communicate with people and see that everyone is different in their own way.

On Thursday 18 January, Access Sport’s Inclusive Club Network came together for a webinar focusing on Neuroinclusion in community sport. 

This fantastic event brought clubs, coaches, and volunteers together to learn more about neurodiversity, the positive impact neurodivergent people can have in sports clubs and practical tips on how we can remove barriers to participation.

The webinar featured a Q&A session with former Olympic rower Caragh McMurtry who shared her experiences as an autistic athlete in high performing sport, and a little about Neurodiverse Sport, a not-for-profit she set up to increase understanding and support for neurodivergent athletes.

We also heard from Dafyyd, who’s autistic and takes part in a lot of sports as a participant and volunteer, Danny who runs Bristol Indoor Bowls Club, and Louise from Bristol Autism Project and parent to an autistic son. They each shared their experiences and top tips to support neurodivergent people in sport. 

What’s the problem?

As a whole, society isn’t designed around meeting neurodivergent needs and understanding on how to do that is limited. Sport is no exception.

Through this webinar and subsequent training workshops, we wanted to provide clubs with a greater understanding of neurodiversity and provide practical tips on how to remove barriers and provide high quality experiences for neurodivergent people in their sessions. We also wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate the strengths that neurodivergent athletes have and the impact that can have in sport.

Key learnings and takeaways

Our guests shared some of their experiences and top tips. Some key learnings included:

Support and channel an individuals strength’s: By recognising participants strengths, and supporting them, they can be even more powerful. But not supported, they could become a weakness, for example literal thinking or hyperfocusing. 

Sport can help with loneliness and improve people’s mental health: Opportunities need to be available at a range of levels and scenarios. It’s great to have specific sessions for neurodivergent people, but we also need to make sure ‘mainstream’ sessions are welcoming to everyone too. 

Consider the unwritten rules: Be really explicit about the things that are unsaid but you would assume people would understand. This could be about the facilities, the important people someone should know, what happens in a session, what to wear, and etiquette in the team. Make it as clear as possible. Sending visuals beforehand can help someone prepare and reduce anxiety. This could be photos of the venue and key staff, or a storyboard of what will happen in the session.

Be kind and patient: People might need extra prompts or reminders - make sure this is done in a kind way. Some participants might prefer to watch for one or multiple sessions before joining in – that’s okay! 

Have a quiet space: Having an area away from the main session for someone to go to if they feel overwhelmed can really make a difference. This should never be seen as a negative if someone wants to use it and they should be able to join back in whenever they want. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions: As long as they are well-intentioned, asking people “What will help you/your child?” is really helpful. But the coach needs to be empathetic when doing that. When you’ve learnt what works or doesn’t work for someone, honour that. 

Be flexible and consider out of the box ideas: You might have planned a session before, but if it’s not working for everyone, be willing to try something else. Work at your participants speed, not yours. 

Clear communication: Explain things in a way that they understand, and ensure they understand the reasoning behind it e.g. the purpose of an activity. This might take multiple attempts. You could create a communication plan with a participant so you both have a clear understanding on what to discuss, and how. 

A coach isn’t there to fix or change a neurodivergence: You shouldn’t be trying to make someone conform to neurotypical standards. You’re there to support that individual. What we deem as ‘good behaviour’ often has nothing to do with someone’s performance or development – so why are we enforcing it?  

Upcoming Neurodiversity Training

Following this webinar, we are hosting two Neurodiversity Training sessions. These online workshops aim to give clubs more knowledge, skills and confidence in delivering sessions to neurodivergent people, with a particular focus on autism and ADHD.
You can sign up for either of these sessions below.

Tuesday 6 February –  6:00 – 9:00pm

Sign up >

Thursday 8 February – 1:00 – 4:00pm

Sign up >


There’s lots of information already out there but here are some great starting points provided as links below:

Neurodiverse Sport, Neuroinclusive Practice in Sport

National Autistic Society, A Guide for Sports Coaches and Clubs

ADHD Foundation, 10 Top Tips for Sports Coaches: Working with ADHD CYP

Get in Touch

Please get in touch with us to tell us how you’re empowering more neurodivergent people and/or what actions you’re going to take to prioritise improving neurodivergent members’ experiences.
[email protected]