KS Foundation: Helping children with autism engage with football

An injury may have unfortunately sidelined him this season but that isn’t preventing Newcastle Jets star Kaine Sheppard from making an impact on football in Australia this year.

The 26-year-old from Northamptonshire had a superb debut campaign in the A-League last season, becoming a regular for the Jets having taken the step up from Australia’s regional leagues in his stride. You can read more about Sheppard’s impressive debut season in my interview with him here.

When the former Leyton Orient man suffered a ligament rupture in his foot during pre-season it was a devastating blow but if there has been one positive to come out of the forward being sidelined it is that he has been able to focus more of his attentions on the brilliant charity work that he has been undergoing in Australia.

Sheppard’s older brother, Jake, has autism himself and the younger sibling was inspired by his brother’s love for the game to start the KS Foundation.

The foundation has been going from strength and in October saw its first Autism Sensory Room launch at the Newcastle Jets versus Adelaide United A-League match.

“The KS Foundation Autism Sensory Room will create a comfortable environment for children with Autism to attend and observe an A-League Fixture, in many cases for the first time,” said a statement from the foundation on Instagram.

“The new facility, which will contain a range of sensory tools and games, will give our fans with profound special needs the opportunity to enjoy matches with their families and their carers.”

Kaine Sheppard celebrating scoring for Newcastle Jets last season

Since that match, the room was also available during the Jets’ match against Perth Glory earlier this month and will be open again this weekend for the men’s and women’s matches in the A-League and W-League respectively.

As well as offering the sensory rooms, the Foundation also aims to provide football clinics for children with autism and internship and work experience programs.

It really does seem like a fantastic cause and the families who have used the facilities at the McDonald Jones Stadium so far have found a very comfortable and inclusive environment to watch football.

You can support the KS Foundation by visiting their GoFundMe page here and their Instagram page can be found here.

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