Student helps children with a learning disability develop life skills with new football school

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A University of Northampton student has run with the ball and put his skills to good use by creating a football school to help disabled children in his native Italy.

Launched today, Ready2Play is based in the A.S.C.D. Torino Club Scuola Calcio Marco Parolo in Gallarate north west of Milan and will run as a pilot project until May next year.

The school was co-developed by University of Northampton Advanced Occupational Therapy (OT) student Marco Pastori in collaboration with fellow Italian OT Marco Lodi Pasini.

Ready2Play will meet once a week and is divided into two sessions. The first half hour is devoted to ‘locker room’ tasks designed to help the children manage day-to-day activities that are also associated with football (lacing up their boots, managing the football bag etc).

The last hour consists of warm-up exercises and a football match itself.

From January to May next year, the programme will then be mixed up so that the children who have a learning disability will play alongside their non-disabled peers.

The aim is that the social and developmental skills of both sets of children will be enhanced, by improving the disabled children’s health with extra physical activity and helping them form friendships with their non-disabled peers.

It is also hoped that the non-disabled children will also gain from attending Ready2Play by interacting with a group of children they wouldn’t ordinarily have contact with and increasing their ‘mentoring’ skills as they help their teammates to play football.

Marco said: “Although the idea for Ready2Play followed my colleague Marco Lodi-Pasini’s existing work with children in Gallarate, it’s very much an example of the type of ‘real-time’ project we are encouraged to develop during the Advance OT course with University of Northampton.

“If I hadn’t taken the course, Ready2Play may not have got off the ground. Now the school is open, I’m looking forward to seeing how it will further help the development of children of Gallaratte.”

Kim Stuart, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy said: “Ready2Play demonstrates perfectly the way in which Occupational Therapists enable all people to engage in their communities and exemplifies the social impact the postgraduate students from University of Northampton can have. They see an issue in their communities of practice, they shape an idea into a project and, with a little guidance, develop it to something that supports everyday living for a whole range of people.

“Marco personifies all of this and we’ll be following and supporting Ready2Play as it evolves over the next year.”

Find out more about Ready2Play on their Facebook page (in Italian) or email Marco: pastori_marco@libero.it

Find out more about the Advance Occupational Therapy course at Northampton.

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