Aden Graham ran around the soccer pitch at the Collicutt Centre on Wednesday smiling while he demonstrated how to properly throw and catch a frisbee.
It’s an achievement for the 14-year- old Red Deer boy who has Asperger syndrome and tends to struggle with making eye contact and various other social interactions.
But playing ultimate frisbee has helped bring Graham out of his shell and he now looks forward to meeting and working with new people.
“I like that we were working as a team to accomplish goals,” he said.
The Learning Disabilities Association of Alberta Red Deer chapter started the ultimate frisbee league as a fun and active way for youth to learn different social skills, executive director Sheryl Krill said.
Players will build teamwork and conflict resolution skills while learning how to play fair in a co-ed environment, she said.
The team sport also provides an opportunity to build new friendships.
“There are some people there who have never had a friend before and they end up with a friend,” Krill said.
The opportunity to interact with others is what drew Graham’s father, Doug, to the program.
“The being active part isn’t really the big thing,” he said. “The big thing for us is for him to be able to be out there to broaden his circle of friends.”
The league is geared towards youth between ages 15 and 17 although Krill said 14- and 18-year-olds are more than welcome to join. The association also ran an ultimate frisbee league for kids between ages 13 and 15 in the fall.
The Primary Care Network provided a $13,000 grant to fund both programs, which helped purchase equipment, rent the soccer pitch and pay for instructors.
Krill said the team sport is a “beautiful marriage” of both organizations.
“Ultimate frisbee is not only sport but social competence programming,” she said.
“So it hits their part of their agenda, which is to try and get the inactive person active. And ours is also to get that, but also to have the social competence part.”
The eight-week program started on Wednesday but new players are still welcomed to join as long as they can commit to the rest of the program.
The league is free and runs Wednesday nights at the Collicutt Centre soccer pitch from 4 to 5:15 p.m. until March 23.
For more information or to register, call 403-340-3885 or email programs@LDreddeer.ca.