Hobbies Success Stories

HOW FOOTBALL HELPED MY DYSPRAXIA

My name is Jade, I’m dyspraxic and also on the autistic spectrum.

From a young age, I gave always struggled with certain things both in and out of education. My mum often tells me stories of how she battled to teach me how to use a knife and fork, or to tie my laces and how much she had to spend on clothes because I’d forever be falling over and ripping them or finding button and zips hard to use without any help. So you might say that manual dexterity and being agile is not my really my thing. My teachers also saw that I had a few difficulties in the classroom and because of this, I was able to get some help with my reading and writing in school, which led to my dyspraxia diagnosis at age 10.

I had always been a bit boisterous and loved playing in the mud, climbing trees (albeit I’d often fall out of them) and playing football. In year 6, my mum finally allowed me to join the football after school club, which I looked forward to every week. She began to notice that it helped with my coordination a little, although back then I was a striker, it still helped me to learn how to run better without falling over.

Fast forward to 2012. I stopped playing football during secondary school, but pick up using computers and other technology so I can program games, create digital art and design websites on my undergraduate in Digital Art. Using the keyboard also helped me to improve my fine motor skills, and my hand-eye coordination. I still sometimes still struggle with typing, organising my code or writing out is in my head, but I have learnt how to plan better using whiteboards and other visuals and type at a speed that suits me.

I began my masters at Goldsmiths University in 2016 and started a course in Games design. For the second year of my part time course, I joined the women’s football team. One day, we were playing a match and the goalkeeper got injured. We only had the one keeper, so I volunteered to give it a try. I was a little nervous because the goalkeeper’s role is important – it’s not just about making saves, it’s about catching the ball, planning when to dive or go towards to the attacker as well as communicating with your defenders and it’s all really fast faced. To my surprise, on my debut as a goalkeeper, I did very well and we won the match.

It’s still sometimes difficult when I play because there is a lot to process simultaneously, but I really enjoy it. I’ve now finished at the university and graduated with a distinction. Getting out there and playing football, making friends and meeting new people really did play a big part and it has helped me tremendously in terms of helping with my confidence, coordination, communication AND my creativity, which is why I would encourage all people to give it a go regardless of your ability or disability! My next conquest is to learn to drive, I’m currently taking driving lessons and have my practical booked for the new year – wish me luck!

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Jade Hall-Smith
Jade is an artist, games designer and programmer. She was diagnosed with Dyspraxia aged 10 and austism at 26. She enjoys making games and playing football. She's an Incredible Hulk and Marvel Comics enthusiast. In her spare time she plays football, does design work and founded Variegated Games, where she designs games to raise awareness of disability and mental health.
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