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Sports program for kids with autism started by Sudbury mom

'Free from judgment and packed full of fun': Kids will learn sports like soccer
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Sara Kitlar-Pothier has started autism-friendly sports nights for local families. From left are Bohdan Pothier, 6, Kitlar-Pothier, Shawn Pothier and Luka Pothier, 3. (Supplied)

A couple of years ago, Sara Kitlar-Pothier enrolled her now six-year-old son, Bohdan, in soccer. But Bohdan has autism, and found the whole experience too overwhelming.

Kitlar-Pothier said there actually used to be a soccer league in Greater Sudbury geared to kids with special needs, but it has since folded.

So the woman has taken it upon herself to start autism-friendly sports nights to get local families active.

The sports nights will take place on four Thursday evenings from 6-7 p.m. during the month of August (Aug. 1, 8, 15 and 22) in the field beside the Coniston Arena at 70 Government Rd.

There's no age restrictions, and the siblings of autistic children are welcome. All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Each night will focus on a different sport. For example, Aug. 1 will have a soccer theme, with kids learning soccer skills.

A variety of “neuro-diverse” sensory equipment such as bubbles, balls with different textures and hula-hoops will also be available for the kids to play with.

“This gives autistic kids an opportunity to get out, get active, meet some friends, and all in an inclusive environment,” Kitlar-Pothier said.

“I've already had quite a few emails. I think we're approaching 30 kids right now just as of today.”

The evenings, which will be “free from judgment and packed full of fun,” are being put on in conjunction with the Northern Ontario Autism Alliance and the Coniston Playground Association, which are providing the equipment.

Kitlar-Pothier, who is on the Northern Ontario Autism Alliance leadership committee, said the August sports evenings are more of a pilot program to gauge interest, and she's planning to set up a larger-scale program in 2020.

If you're interested in attending, email Kitlar-Pothier at autismfriendlysportsnight@gmail.com




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