UCL PHD student Abigail Hill is president of the rugby teams.  Abigail is passionate about the sport and wanted to find a way for the sport to be more inclusive to encourage more people to take part. Abigail got in touch with Autism Anglia, with it’s Head Office in Colchester; Abigail’s home-town that supports autistic adults and children.

Abigail invited adults in the care of the charity and students at Doucecroft School to attend a special rugby event in Regents Park on Saturday 26th February. She has worked with the charity to understand the often complex needs of the people they support to ensure that their needs are met.

Many of the children and adults that attended have communication issues and sensory needs such as a dislike for loud noise or touch. Their Autism Anglia support workers informed Abigail of these and their likes and dislikes and Abigail and team prepared a number of activities around these needs.

They worked with Autism Anglia to create a social story: a series of photos and basic instructions that were shown to the attendees ahead of the event so they are prepared for what they might see or hear on the day.

Abi and the team tailor made the activities including step by step one-to-one coaching on how to handle, throw and catch a rugby ball, fun team-building games, alongside progressing to scoring tries and touch rugby games. These activities were recorded ahead of the event so that the people supported by the charity were aware of what to expect on the day.

Abi Hill said:

UCL's women's rugby were delighted to teach everyone at Autism Anglia new rugby skills, we were definitely given a run for our money with the budding rugby players they have! It was also amazing to see the great work that all the staff at Autism Anglia do with their service users first-hand.

The charity has faced many challenges for those in its care through the Covid crisis with many of the autistic adults and children’s usual activities not being available. They very much welcome the opportunity to improve socialisation, but also to introduce the people they support to a sport that many would have often felt too daunted or overwhelmed to try.

Over 20 children and adults supported by Autism Anglia attended the event along with their support Workers or teachers who were greeted at Regents Park by the UCL women's rugby team.  There was a very positive atmosphere with lots of high fives and encouragement for each other on the day. Everyone was thoroughly engaged with the activities.

Following the rugby, everyone was invited back to UCL for lunch and fun games.  This gave everyone a chance to wind down but also provided a great opportunity for Doucecroft students to speak to the UCL students about life at university. 

Kate Hancock, chief executive at Autism Anglia said:

It’s wonderful to know that UCL students are taking the time to understand the needs of autistic people and how to make small adjustments to ensure the sport is inclusive. The students were so wonderful with the people we support and took the time to ensure everyone felt comfortable and were able to get involved as well as learning new skills. The feedback from the people we support and our staff that attended has been extremely positive and we are grateful to Abi Hill and fellow teammates for hosting a brilliant day.

Autism Anglia is a registered charity and is always very grateful of support from the community to enhance it's vital services for people with autism. Find out more HERE.