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The Everton FC steward knew just how to help us

Sarah and Daniel’s story

Daniel’s nearly 10 and is in mainstream school. He was diagnosed before his sixth birthday with ASD. He’s a very active young boy: he likes all the sports. He hasn’t got the concentration to sit and do the quieter activities.

Daniel gets quite angry and emotional a lot of the time and this is something we work with. Sometimes you know in advance that there’ll be a trigger. Sometimes it will be something you hadn’t thought of.  Even something slightly different can upset him, such as asking him to do his wash and brush his teeth. He knows he has to brush his teeth when he washes, you see, so asking him separately will upset him. When he gets angry it escalates quickly and sometimes I don’t realise I’ve done something wrong.

Something really little can upset him like someone touching him. In mainstream school a lot of the kids don’t understand. The staff are quite supportive but there are some things they don’t take into account when supporting Daniel.  It is usually me who has to go in and say, ‘Have you ever thought that THIS could have caused that meltdown? Or did you pre-warn him about THAT?’ They need to think a bit more.

It’s just me and Daniel on our own at home. I try to do a lot when he’s in school. Otherwise, just going to the supermarket takes twice as long and I can’t finish.  There are too many people there and someone only has to nudge him as they go past – he doesn’t like being touched.  Even if someone does it by accident, there’s a meltdown.  If he has a meltdown when we are out he will RUN.  It is a danger.

Daniel supports Everton although he went through a Liverpool phase. If he hears someone says Liverpool he changes his mind for the day – but at heart he’s an Evertonian.  He’d never been to a game until recently and I honestly didn’t know how he’d react.  But he asked me to take him. He said, ‘We can get seats on our own and I’ll take my ear defenders.’  He didn’t want anyone to sit by him or touch him. He thought about that a lot before we were even going and I had to explain that he might have someone next to him.

The day we were going he wrote a story about it for me. He wrote that he had stomach pains because he didn’t know what it was going to be like. He was thinking there would be loads of people and it would be noisy. When we got there, I spoke to a lady on the gate. She said that Goodison Park was trying to be more autism friendly and that they’d had training.

She let us in through a door because Daniel didn’t like the turn style. He was a bit reluctant as he didn’t know what was on the other side, but she got him through. She said there was emergency seating if needed and then added that she couldn’t do anything about the noise, which was funny. We totally understood that!

Then she passed us onto someone else and we were escorted through the crowds to our seats. We were on the end near an exit and the steward stood near us and kept, very subtly, looking at me and saying are you OK. Daniel started crying when people were shouting but we overcame it. He had his headphones and listened to music on his phone.

We stayed for whole match – that’s amazing. I really didn’t think I’d get him in there, never mind staying for the whole thing!   Daniel did well. At first he said he’d never come back because of the shouting and because a man came and sat in the empty seat next to him.  But he shuffled nearer to me and calmed down

Everton was playing Leicester City in the FA cup third round. Leicester won 2:1. Everton were leading 1 nil for a while. When they scored everyone jumped up and it was very loud and Daniel covered  his ears. He’d taken his headphones off as it had gone quiet. He was happy though because they had scored.  He didn’t get upset: he had overcome being upset earlier on.

Now he’s asked for a home game season ticket. I never thought I’d get him in and now he wants to go back!  He wrote a story when we got home about the nice people who helped us.

A few years ago a lot of places didn’t know about autism.  These days, things are so much easier for me and Daniel. I was always really stressed. I was anxious going out because of the way things are.

When organisations do autism awareness training, everyone on the course takes something different from it.  Then they’ll put it into practice in their own way, as an individual.  The steward at Everton knew instinctively that Daniel didn’t want him to keep coming over to us.  But he stayed there all the same and checked on me. It was subtle and very supportive. I’m really happy with the way it went.

Sarah and Daniel live in Liverpool.  Everton FC is one of our Liverpool Autism Champions.