Growing up, I was always classed as a quiet child at school yet when I got home I was a misbehaved troubled child for my family. I did things which I regret but who doesn’t? My school life wasn’t great, yes I achieved good grades for my gcses but throughout both senior school and primary school I was severely bullied and beaten up, aswell as constistently insulted and scared to leave my house in the morning.
I was 14 when I discovered refereeing and for me it gave me an escape. I played rugby for a long time and briefly played Sunday league football aswell as starting off my refereeing venture. To be in charge of something whilst being involved in a sport I love was brilliant. From this I have since gone onto to referee the england indoor sides in able bodied, blind, cerebal palsy and partially sighted. I don’t believe that for someone of such a young age as myself who had no confidence, I’ve done too badly.
On to the autism, for years i was classed as “sensitive” or “weird” and that didn’t give me any answers at all. Councelling from the age of 12 didn’t really help until I changed to someone called Vince when I was 17 and he changed my life dramatically. I can’t speak highly enough of him to be honest. Whilst I was at sixth form I struggled with a lot of things, particularly with nerves hence why it was then diagnosed with social anxiety. Not one to argue, I took that answer and moved on even though I wasn’t fully happy with it!
A year later and I started a new college, was the support there? Not really unfortunately as they were trying to help me with an issue I didn’t have. My attendance as you could well imagine was pretty poor due to my issues which lead me to leave college yet again. Yea, fair to say my parents wernt too happy!!:)
6 months of not doing much with my life due to feeling very sorry for myself and going through depression and 3 attempts to take my own life, made me realise what’s really important to me. Family, sport and friends in that order. Soon enough I got myself an apprenticeship and all I can really say is, it wasn’t great and there wasn’t a great deal of support there for me from them.Moving on and after a few months of volunteering, I began to help out with a football side and a new job came along, Soon enough a second job came along too which was brilliant!:)
So you may be thinking where does autism come into this?!:) Well with my sister studying her masters in psychology at the 3rd best uni in the country, she recommended I was tested for it through what’s she’s learnt over the 3 years of her being there. As reluctant as I was to get tested and diagnosed due to the stigma of autism, I agreed to get assessed for it. My parents paid for this to be done privately and soon enough I was diagnosed with ASD, autistic spectrum disorder. So the journey to accepting it began, took me ages in truth and now I believe I’m a stronger person for having it.
Refereeing is now going good and so is coaching, along with holding down 2 jobs and volunteering for prostate cancer. If someone said to me I would be in this position 12 months ago, I would have bitten their arm off.
People may think that referees with autism can’t get anywhere in sport but I’m determined to prove I can be different. This blog page will just journal my refereeing games, my coaching and my general struggles. I hope that other autistic people will read this and give them a positive outlook on life and know that they to can get through the good and bad times which I know we all get. We may deal with it differently but we are all human and everyone makes mistakes in life.
My sign off for all my articles will simply be this: AR (Autistic referee)
So on that basis and until next week, have a positive few days,