Fitness, friends and finding your place

Meet Stephen. Stephen has autism, and many years ago he was very anxious and often wasn’t able to leave his own flat. Fast forward to now and he manages various exercise groups to improve physical health and tackle loneliness.

Stephen is a Sports Ambassador for Achieve together – he uses their connections to help improve people’s well-being across the community and raises money for charity.

Helping people get active

Every week, Stephen runs a “Walk and Talk” group where local people are invited to join him for a walk and a chat.

It sounds simple enough, but this opportunity gets people out of their care homes, gets them active and helps them make new friends.

Stephen also runs weekly exercise sessions for older people. Once a week he visits local homes and leads gentle exercise routines he’s designed himself. They’re specifically for older people and they not only help improve physical fitness, but also attentiveness and mental fitness.

Most importantly of all though, people are enjoying the exercises together. Which he enjoys too – in the past autism has made relationships very challenging for him, but now he’s overcoming that, developing his own relationships and helping other people too.

His weekly sessions are so popular and beneficial, he also runs a “Walking Football” session at an annual event and is currently seeing how he can make this a regular activity too.

“It has been proven by scientists that lonely people have shorter lives, and a lot of people with learning disabilities and autism are lonely. Stephen is helping to change that.”

Helping others overcome what he has

It’s clear that Stephen is motivated to help stop other people experiencing the same things he has.

He used to be confined to his flat because of social anxiety, which means he wasn’t getting physically active or mentally stimulated by conversation.

His love of football has helped him overcome these significant social anxieties.

He’s completed FA Level 1 Sports Coaching Qualification with Tottenham Hotspur Foundation and plays for his organisation’s football team, as well as managing their yearly 5 a side tournaments.

He soon understood the benefits a physical, group activity can have for health and well-being.

How does it feel to be a Learning Disability and Autism Leader?

“It makes me very proud and happy to be a Leader.”

“It’s really great to read about Stephen taking time to help others. He’s had to overcome his own challenges and now uses his experience and passion to assist other people. Many of us can learn good things from Stephen, he’s such an inspiration.” – Leaders’ List 2019 Judge