Daniel Cox is a winner of a Fragile X Association Achievement Award 2016!
It is a well-known fact that no sporting club can exist without a band of administrators, coaches, officials and volunteers working behind the scenes. The Oak Flats Falcons Soccer Club in Wollongong, NSW, a senior soccer club catering for youths to over 35s, is no different. For the past three soccer seasons, Tina Cox and her son Daniel, a 15 year old boy with Fragile X syndrome, have supported the club by helping to run the canteen.
Up until the 2016 season, Daniel would help his mum stock and clean the canteen. At the beginning of this year’s season, he was able to pass orders to customers but by the end of the season, he was independently serving customers, taking their money and with some guidance, giving them change.
Daniel’s mum Tina says he has a love of life and a keen desire for independence. Over this soccer season, the growth in Daniel’s confidence and independence has been remarkable. It has made his parents extremely proud and led them to nominate him for a Fragile X Association Achievement Award. But the improvement has also been noticed by the Club’s committee and this year, Daniel was given an award at the Club presentation night for ‘Club Helper of the Year’.
“Daniel was extremely proud when he received this award as he was cheered by the whole room. Although he was a little shy about it, the smile on his face lasted for days and he was keen to show his medal to as many people as he could”, said Daniel’s mum Tina.
According to Tina, Oak Flats Falcons Soccer Club is like one big happy family with the committee and players showing a great deal of acceptance to everyone. In July 2015, the players wore orange arm bands in support of Fragile X Awareness month.
“Everyone at the club shows Daniel great respect. They treat him as a human being, not a young man with additional needs.
“They always greet him warmly and talk to him at all the home games. This level of inclusion has made an enormous difference to Daniel and has strengthened his confidence to interact with other people”, Tina explained.
Although Daniel enjoys the opportunity to watch the Falcons play when he is working in the canteen at home games, he is also a keen participator in a range of sports. One evening a week, Daniel is part of a teen swim squad, which caters mainly for children with additional needs, and on another evening, he attends an indoor sports program run through a local organisation called The Disability Trust where he plays basketball, indoor soccer and indoor cricket. Aside from sport, Daniel attends a support class in a mainstream school and loves art, movies and theatre.
Tina believes that the confidence Daniel has gained by working in the soccer club canteen has filtered through into other areas of his life.
“At indoor sports, the coach is very encouraging and even asks Daniel to lead the warm-ups. Nowadays, Daniel gets actively involved in all the games and chases after the ball, sometimes even trying to wrench it from opposing players.
“Daniel is also more confident walking home from school by himself and has even gone on some camps where he has been actively involved”, Tina said.
Daniel’s involvement in a wide variety of community activities, and the encouragement he receives to try new things that are outside his comfort zone, is evidence of Tina’s and Jimmy’s (Daniel’s dad) attitude to raising a child with Fragile X syndrome.
She says, “Give children strategies to deal with their anxiety and help them to build their confidence interacting with others.
“It is really important to encourage your child to be a part of the community, and to never give up. Make sure your child has the same opportunities as everyone else”.