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Football club for children with a learning disability hits the back of the net

Date 7.11.2019

Italian children who have a learning disability have seen their social and physical development improve, thanks to a University student who created a football club for them.

Marco Pastori is an MSc Advanced Occupational Therapy (OT) student who set-up Ready2Play with fellow OT Marco Lodi Pasini in September last year.

The aim of the club was to increase the physical health and social and developmental skills of the children who have a learning disability and to help develop other skills in their non-disabled peers, for instance by allowing them to ‘have a shot’ at mentoring their new teammates.

Following an evaluation of Ready2Play’s impact, the team report that the club is definitely in the occupational therapy ‘Premier League’.

All parents were enthusiastic about the project and their children’s participation, reporting its positive impact on their school performance and their home life, with some children playing more with their classmates or neighbours outside of school.

Other children saw their cognitive skills (such as their awareness of time) and their personal independence (such as getting dressed) improve, as well as the furthering of their social skills (for instance, respecting rules).

Ready2Play’s second season has already started with some of the previous children returning joined by new teammates and is now co-funded by private sponsors to help the club evolve.

Photo showing Lazio player Marco Parolo and children at the Ready to Play club

Photo showing Lazio player Marco Parolo and children at the Ready to Play club. Image: Pier Chiara Andreazza.

Marco, pictured with the children and, in the middle, Lazio and Italia national football player Marco Parolo, said: “Delivering Ready2Play has been hard but seeing the huge impact our club has had on both groups of children has given me the energy to keep everything ‘on side’.

“Happiness and friendship are two of the key aspects of this project, so it’s been fantastic to see how much the children have enjoyed being part of the club and hearing really positive comments from their parents.

“We’ve developed the club around the children’s needs and their own feedback, such as buying a clock that explains more clearly what time it is which helped them ready for training and we have had the support of a local gym to train indoors during a cold snap.

“The University of Northampton is just the right place for a student to create something like this as it gives you a stimulating environment to increase your professional skills and the space to develop ideas that can really make a difference in people’s lives. Essentially, this is what occupational therapy is all about.”

For enquiries about Ready2Play, email Marco:

Find out more about Ready2Play (in Italian).

There is also video about the club.

Find out more about the MSc in Advanced Occupational Therapy at the University of Northampton.