Isabella's Story | Norwich City Community Sports Foundation

Story added: 21st March 2024

Isabella's Story

Fourteen-year-old Isabella originally joined our PAN-disability football programme in April 2023, when the sessions were first introduced, in an attempt to help her to improve the anxiety and physical outbursts that were making life both at her school and at home increasingly difficult.

Isabella was diagnosed with autism and global development delay at aged four, resulting in her parents making the decision to enrol Isabella in the Ashley Academy, a SEN school, in order to ease the overstimulation that she might feel if she were attending a mainstream school.

However, Isabella was still finding the school environment difficult, with occasional physical outbursts causing her to be excluded, making life difficult for all parties. It was Isabella’s school who first recommended the PAN-disability football sessions to her parents, as a form of specialist provision.

Isabella had attempted taking part in extra-curricular clubs and societies before, such as Brownies and ballet, but found it difficult to stay engaged and interested for a long period of time, due to her disability hindering her concentration. However, it didn’t take long for Isabella to find her passion for football in our PAN-disability sessions, with the fast-paced nature of the game helping to ease her anxiety and take her mind off the everyday stresses that she had been experiencing.

The PAN-disability programme had an almost instant impact on Isabella, who’s smile and positive behaviour on the pitch was noticeable to both her parents and her coaches. The sessions not only had a positive effect on Isabella’s behaviour but also on her physical health, with the hour on the pitch provided by the PAN-disability sessions quickly becoming a highlight of Isabella’s week.

The dramatic change in Isabella’s attitude and behaviour resulted in her being rewarded with a seat in the executive box for a Norwich game at the end of last year, an experience she thoroughly enjoyed. This opportunity further fuelled Isabella’s love for football, and she, along with her dad, has purchased season tickets for the Norwich City Women for next season. She’s particularly excited to see Olivia Cook – her favourite player – take to the pitch, as Olivia helps coach Isabella in her own PAN-disability sessions.

Isabella’s mother had nothing both compliments for the pan-disability programme, and the positive developments it had had on her daughter:

“I’ve seen her a lot more confident and motivated since joining the PAN-disability team, which comes with the encouragement and training she’s gained through all fantastic coaching and support. I must admit, recently, she scored her first goal in a small mini game and I teared up a bit as everyone cheered – she said she felt like Ronaldo!

“This is the only out of school activity she’s ever maintained an interest in and whatever the weather she is always eager to attend. I can’t wait to see her continue to grow and develop.”

Shane Brown, one of the coaches at the PAN-disability football sessions was also full of praise for Isabella’s fantastic progress:

“Isabella has been a joy to have at the sessions over the past year. Seeing her come out of her shell while attending is an example of why we love to deliver the PAN disability sessions.

She has come a long way with her football skills, but even more so in a social setting. Seeing her get so emotional when scoring her first goal in a game, and the way the whole group reacted and cheered is something that will always stay with me.”

The PAN-disability sessions have not only helped Isabella to develop her skills whilst on the pitch, but have also had a positive effect on her day-to-day life whilst at school, with teachers commenting on the noticeable change in her concentration levels and mental wellbeing.

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