“The Judo sessions have given Toby the confidence to try new things… he’s doing my exercise, he’s meeting other people, he’s happier within himself.”

Too often young people like Toby, an 11-year-old with Autism and ADHD, face social isolation due to lack of opportunities. Social isolation can have an impact on both physical and mental well-being, often hindering emotional growth and leading to feelings of loneliness.

For Toby, this had led to him feeling hesitant to leave the house for months. Sadly, this is a common experience among disabled young people, with 70 percent reporting chronic loneliness1. United Judo’s monthly inclusive sessions in Bromley aim to combat this issue by providing an inclusive environment that promotes confidence, physical activity and social interaction.

Judo offers a structured and predictable environment, promotes social skills and boosts confidence through mindfulness and technique mastery. Its emphasis on repetitive tasks aligns well with the preferences often associated with autism.

Access Sport supported United Judo by funding sessions, organising outreach at two local Special Educational Needs Schools, offering Disability Inclusion Training to boost coaches’ confidence in adapting their sessions and providing administrative assistance, including managing registrations and bookings.

The sessions have proved very popular, with the class being full almost every month, resulting in 32 disabled young people engaged through club sessions and outreach.

Toby’s Mum said:

“The Judo sessions have given Toby the confidence to try new things… he’s doing my exercise, he’s meeting other people, he’s happier within himself.”

Dave is a coach at United Judo. Teachers and parents have expressed the impact of Sensei Dave’s ability to understand the young people individually and adapt sessions to everyone within the group. This has been a key factor in the success of the sessions and has created a relaxed and supportive environment.

A teacher said:

“The session was great! Dave is a great coach, very patient, knowledgeable and keen to teach no matter the ability level.”

United Judo has allowed participants to try new things and express themselves. Toby’s mum also notes a remarkable improvement in his overall physical health, citing increased exercise and weight management as direct benefits. Experiencing positive social interactions in an inclusive, supportive environment has contributed significantly to Toby’s happiness and mental well-being.

“Participants are now doing things that they never did at the start of the sessions. You can see the benefits in their movement and the social activity. I like the sessions because I feel it’s bringing all the community together, that’s what sport is about. I don’t ask for praise, as long as they’re happy, that’s all the praise you need.” – Dave, United Judo Coach

By supporting activities like United Judo’s inclusive sessions, young people like Toby are opened up to life-changing experiences. Once unable to leave his house, Toby now feels inspired and motivated to socialize and exercise more, which has had an invaluable lasting impact on his happiness.


References

1Sense, Left Out of Life Campaign