Soccer camp for children with autism readied at UVU

University Marketing & Communications: Layton Shumway | 801-863-6863 |

Written by: Jay Wamsley | 801-863-8504 |


Utah Valley University is set to host a two-day soccer camp specifically for families with children on the autism spectrum on June 8-9, from 4-7 p.m. both days. The event will be held on the McKay Education Building athletic field, near the newly dedicated Cole Nellesen Building, which houses UVU’s Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism. 

The event is co-sponsored by UVU and the Moving Mountains Soccer Camp. It is designed for children from 3-9 years of age. Laurie Bowen, associate director of the Center for Autism, said, “We think every child should have the opportunity to play. And if there needs to be some adjustments made to let them enjoy things like soccer, we want to support organizations that are working towards that, and Moving Mountains is dedicated to that.”

“A lot of times children with autism, because of some of the difficulties with their diagnosis, can’t always play team sports, or if they can, it is more difficult,” Bowen said. “Sometimes parents opt out of that because they don’t think their children will be able to participate. Here, everyone participates.”

Bowen said each child will have one-on-one access to a volunteer during the activity. She said all volunteers — teens, adults, UVU athletes — will receive training on autism. Bowen said Vivint Gives Back will be donating a soccer ball and T-shirt to all student participants. About 150 volunteers are lined up.

“The goal is to have fun,” she explained. “We want them to be flexible with that child. The goal is to create a relationship with that child. That child will feel like they have a special friend that is helping them learn. That’s part of the power.”

UVU women’s soccer head coach Christopher Lemay said his team “loves being a part” of activities such as the autism soccer camp. “Moments like this do way more for our student-athletes than we could ever do for these families and these children that go through so much,” Lemay said. “No matter how small a role we play, we are thrilled to be a part of this event again.”

Bowen said a secondary benefit of the camp is the effect the training and one-on-one time does for the volunteers.

“I think,” she said, “it helps with the elimination of bullying. When you have that many young people learning about autism hands-on, it’s going to be harder for them to be unkind to anyone later.”

Fourth region (Section 1)