WASSA is a group of parents who have children on the Autistic Spectrum and our aim is to benefit the community through participation, integration and inclusion into mainstream social and sporting activities.
What is Wassa?
WASSA is an acronym for Waterford Autism Social & Sports Action. This organisation was set up in 2009 by local parents. The groups objective is to support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) through a range of social and sports activities. All children with ASD demonstrate deficits in:
1) social interaction,
2) verbal and nonverbal communication, and
3) repetitive behaviors or interests.
In addition, the children often have unusual responses to sensory experiences, such as certain sounds or the way objects look. Each of these symptoms can be from mild to severe depending on where the child lies on the spectrum.
Children with ASD have difficulty learning to engage in the give-and-take of everyday human interaction. They seem indifferent to other people, and often seem to prefer being alone. Children with ASD are slower in learning to interpret what others are thinking and feeling. Subtle social cues like a smile, a wink, or a grimace may have little meaning. Children with ASD have difficulty seeing things from another person’s perspective and have difficulty regulating their emotions. This can take the form of “immature” behavior such as crying or verbal outbursts that seem inappropriate to those around them.
Those who speak often use language in unusual ways. They find it difficult to combine words into meaningful sentences. Some speak only single words, while others repeat the same phrase over and over, parroting what they hear. This is a condition called echolalia.
The “give and take” of normal conversation is hard for them, although they often carry on a monologue on a favorite subject, giving no one else an opportunity to comment. Another difficulty is often the inability to understand body language, tone of voice, or “phrases of speech.
WASSA are aware of the many difficulties that are presented to children with ASD and how these difficulties have to be overcome in order for the children to integrate into regular mainstream activities such as participation in a team sport like football and the social aspects associated to such an activity.
The organisation looks to bridge this gap and provide these opportunities. To date we have been successful in organising this participated. From our experiences we have found that with perseverance it is possible for the children to make this transition but it takes time, care and determination.
ASD is on the increase. In 1980 one in 10,000 were diagnosed with autism. Today, it is one in 150, therefore making the WASSA role all the more prevalent.