Michael Solomon (right) has developed a unique Auskick program for Tyler who cannot see

Inclusive Auskick Program

Friday, June 24, 2011

By Michael Solomon, NAB AFL Auskick Coordinator
Caroline Springs NAB AFL Auskick Centre

Tyler Fishlock lost both his eyes to cancer at the age of three.

This year he decided he would like to play Auskick (he's now nearly nine).

His father Brad spoke to me about his involvement and I agreed that we would integrate and include him where we could (with safety the main concern). When we couldn't include Tyler, I would complete a one-on-one program with him.

To set up the program I had to do a host of research including making numerous phone calls (some overseas) as well as using the internet and other resources.

We now have him actively participating in Auskick on a weekly basis. For his own confidence we try not to deviate too far away from his program which goes like this every Saturday:

9.10am - 9.20am: Warm up

This includes running and stretching as well as figure-8 ball work, etc. This is a challenge for Tyler as running is difficult because he has no focus point. We have overcome this by using a short rope attached to both of us while we run.

9.20am - 9.35am: Goal kicking

This is completed by placing a number of balls to the left side of Tyler and using voice directions to help him locate them. He then takes two steps from his marking cone that he feels before each kick and then kicks the ball to me in the goal square. I have made myself wrist bands with bells so he can kick towards the bells to locate me and know in which direction to kick.

9.35am - 9.40am: Shuttle runs

I developed a simple apparatus whereby I tie rope between two point posts and wrap tape along the rope at uneven intervals. Tyler then holds the rope while running until he feels the tape. He then returns to the beginning, and repeatedly skips his last point and moves to the next one, then back to the beginning until all points have been reached.

This sounds easy, but let me tell you, I occasionally blindfold Tyler's dad so they can compete and doing it by feel is anything but easy.

9.40am - 9.50am: Handball shuttle

For this we use the same apparatus as the shuttle runs but when he hits the tape on the rope he picks up a ball (which I have already placed at each interval) and then handballs to my wristband bells. He continues doing this along the rope until he's covered each point. At the end he runs along the rope back to the beginning to finish the drill.

I've also had his dad compete this on time trial while blindfolded and Tyler wins easily.

9.50am - 9.55am: Dribble ball

Using the rope apparatus again, Tyler has a ball at his feet which he must dribble from one end of the rope to the other.

I have also adapted this to a competitive game against his dad. Once again Brad is blindfolded. They start at opposite ends of the rope until they meet, then I count the distance between the ends and where they met. The one who travelled the fastest wins (dad hasn't won this yet either!)

9.55am - 10.00am: Group activities

Tyler and Brad join the main group which is either a handball or kick drill; Brad helps Tyler to participate. Tyler enjoys this immensely as the sound of other kids' voices is something he really loves.

10am - 10.30am: The match 

Tyler puts on his Auskick bib and participates in the game with his dad's help who takes on the role of designated kick-out for points. Once again Tyler really enjoys just being there with the other kids.

Working with Tyler has really made me think about my coaching.

Without participant sight, a coach has to rely on heightened use of verbal communication and touch as well as be innovative/creative in the way they use equipment.

I really believe it's assisted me when coaching other kids without the challenges that Tyler has.

Tyler is a great little kid who leaves me humbled every week by his motivation, bravery and most of all his commitment to being as normal as he possibly can despite the lot he has been dealt with.

During the week, I work in a very competitive industry with lots of challenges, yet the most rewarding part of my week is working with Tyler. He really is inspirational.

Matt Taylor, 26-06-11 13:06:
Great article & great work Michael, Troy & all the volunteers at Caroline Springs Auskick.

A great example of the reach & potential of the auskick program.

As an Auskick coordinator myself it is vital that coaching kids is inclusive, fun & results in positive community outcomes, particularly for parents, health professionals & governments that put an enormous amount of care & resources into terrific kids like Torpedo Tyler to be an active part of our local community.
Roland Frasca, 28-06-11 23:51:
Excellent program Michael and to all at Caroline Springs Auskick. My autistic son has been a part of Auskick now for two years. Like you Michael, as a co-ordinator I am so enriched with having wonderful and happy kids and equally sensational and understanding parents and caoches who make my son's Auskick experience such a welcoming and involved one.
Keep up the good work.

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