Joseph Parslow has a long list of barriers that could prevent him from enjoying sport – but his impressive efforts to overcome them have earned him a Panathlon Jack Petchey Foundation Outstanding Achievement award.

A pupil at Doucecroft School in Colchester, Joseph has autism, learning delay, anxiety, communication disorder and Tourette’s syndrome. He has mild hypermobility which often affects his core muscles, coordination and spatial awareness.

These conditions mean he has limited concentration, mis-interpretation of language, sensory processing difficulties, struggles with reading and writing, low confidence, difficulty communicating with others and regulating his emotions, poor spatial awareness and is prone to falls and accidents.

He joined Doucecroft in 2019 having attended six previous schools. He started to settle in, but then experienced significant anxiety during the pandemic. He struggled to understand his change in circumstances, couldn’t see his beloved grandparents and become preoccupied about the dangers of going outside.

Whilst stuck at home, Joseph enjoyed our Virtual Panathlon activities which he did with his younger sister. Since returning to school, his love for sport has developed thanks to Doucecroft’s legendary sports coordinator Andrea Griffiths, who has used the ‘vehicle’ of Panathlon to convert Joseph into an active competitor and leader.

He now loves PE and Panathlon competitions and has a dream of becoming a PE teacher. Teachers have used football skills sessions to help regulate his emotions, improve his focus and deal with his Tourette’s syndrome.

Joseph attends football sessions outside of school and has met others with similar difficulties which has allowed him to gain confidence and allow him to feel more accepted.

Taking part in Panathlon externally and in school (including extra-curricular clubs) has not only exposed Joseph to new challenges and environments, but also developed his communication skills, enabling him to earn him a junior leadership award. Mrs Griffiths said: “Engaging in activities such as Panathlon has helped Joseph focus in other areas of the curriculum and has started an interest in learning and a willingness to keep trying.”

Joseph is currently adapting to new medication and some recent family changes including getting used to a new home. The sporting opportunities that he enjoys have assisted him in adapting to these changes.

In the last couple of years, he has become a member of the Ipswich
Town football youth disability team, attended charity sporting events and has learned to ride a bike. He goes to swimming and gymnastics lessons but his favourite is Panathlon, in which he has become a role model for his team-mates

Having achieved a junior leadership award, Joseph will start a sports leadership award this year.