Co-authored by Julio Serrano (Latino Coaches Advocacy Group) and Shawn Danhouser (Disabilities Allies Advocacy Group)

In some of our Latino communities there is a shame and stigma involving special needs children, and some families are hesitant to ask for help. For this reason Latino families are more likely than white families to care for disabled children and adults at home. With little to no outside intervention and or support. One of the main reasons is due to lack of information. Nationally there is an increasing demand for information in Spanish. As more and more information is being put out in Spanish and the language barrier can be overcome. Along with more Spanish education being done by Spanish speaking workers. The cultural barriers continue to be very challenging for some organizations.

About 1 in 8 Americans live with one or more disabilities. The majority of those people are 65 years or older. The age groups that most of us coach, (ages 5-17, and 18-34) account for approximately 5% and 6% of their age groups, respectively. Amongst those age groups, the most prevalent disabilities are

· Mobility related (e.g. Cerebral Palsy, wheelchair or walker enabled) – 7%

· Cognitive (e.g. Autism, Downs Syndrome, ADHD, Learning disabilities) – 6%

· Deaf or Hard of Hearing – 4%

· Vision impairments – 2%

That’s a lot of people that generally, do not have access to the game without help from someone like you. Disabilities do not discriminate by racial or social divides. Every community is affected.

Organizations should be aware that the need is out there and provide information, but families need to act, call, and ask for help. As in anything, we must have a common denominator to be able to reach these communities. For this instance it can be “Futbol” as well as having someone from that community that they can relate to. They must be able to see themselves within the organization. The organization must reflect the community it represents.

The easiest way to get started is to see if there is an adaptive soccer program already in your community. Special Olympics, US Youth TOPSoccer, AYSO VIP programs are often always looking for help, and if a team is not nearby, they can help you organize a program. Local School and Park Districts often have programs you can help with.

Start off slow by just volunteering at an event. Then move to hosting a clinic in your community. The kids are out there and their families will be interested. If you can give more of your time, take the next step and offer more programming. You will be amazed at how much you and your players will enjoy giving back to the game and being more involved in your community.

Don’t know where to start? Reach out to a member of United Soccer Coaches Disabilities Allies Advocacy Group. They have many people willing to support you.

As the U.S. Latino population continues to grow, it is imperative that the organizations and community stakeholders and leaders recognize that the future success of our country depends on the success of Latino communities. From public schools to health care, much of what the U.S. will confront in the future revolves around the needs of its Latino residents.