Enhancing the Experience of Athletes with Autism in Gymnastics 

A unique sporting collaboration between Gymnastics Victoria and Special Olympics Australia is bound to uplift coaching performance and the participation experience of athletes with autism in gymnastics. 

Creating a Positive Experience in Gymnastics for Participants with Autism is a brand new online learning experience for coaches and physical education teachers delivered via Special Olympics learning portal – SOA Learn.  Off the back of the recent ground-breaking Autism Inclusion webinar series run by Special Olympics Australia, this new course delves further into the practical strategies of coaching athletes with autism in gymnastics with insights from coaches and sector experts.  

The course was inspired by the work undertaken by psychologists Meghan Wilson and Cara Small from 2018 – 2020 in collaboration with Gymnastics Victoria. The pair designed a bespoke curriculum and delivered this into gymnastics centres all across Victoria, with the key goal of better equipping hundreds of coaches to provide a positive experience for athletes on the Autism Spectrum. 

Gymnastics Victoria CEO, Robin O’Neill discusses how this collaborative approach aligns to the values of the sport of being inclusive for all. “Gymnastics Victoria are proud to have worked with Special Olympics Australia and Leaders of Evolution to deliver this online coaching module to help people understand how to best coach people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” O’Neill said.  “Making gymnastics as accessible as possible to all members of the community is a key focus for us and we believe it all starts with embedding inclusion in training and education.” 

The online learning course will now reach thousands of coaches around the country, equipping coaches and teachers with the skills, tools and strategies to engage with athletes with autism and establish a safe and positive environment for them. Critically, the course has a focus of encouraging coaches to apply and reflect on their learning within their unique environments. 

Leaders of Evolution Director of Learning and Development, Damian Hecker has worked with Gymnastics Victoria and Special Olympics Australia staff to bring the course to life. “Learners will be incredibly engaged by our guests in the course who bring a mix of academic rigour and practical experience to their storytelling. We have designed the course in a way that builds knowledge and challenges application, in order to meet the needs of the learner and participant.” 

The course was also supported by the Victorian State Government and can be found at www.soalearn.com.au. Creating an account on the learning platform and accessing the course itself is free. For more information on coaching with Gymnastics Victoria please visit the Study Gym Inclusive Coaching Page