Written by Matt Woosnam

Crystal Palace is a club which strives to be inclusive and make football a fun day out for all the family, and this letter from the parent of an autistic child thanking the club for helping him to improve his social skills goes to show that the little things can make a huge difference. 

To all the team at Crystal Palace Football Club,

I wanted to write to tell you all about my son and the wonderful things being at the club has done for him this season.

As some background information, he suffers with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), he also has a severe speech and language delay with mild learning difficulties and dyslexia. Life can be tough for him as he tends not to speak or look at people he does not know well. New situations and places are also difficult for him to deal with. The one absolute passion he has in his life is football. However, getting him out of the house can be challenging.

We visited the club at the end of last season with a family member for a game and he told me he had enjoyed the game and wanted to return. As a family we tend to buy passes for places so if we should have to leave because of an “autistic meltdown” as we call them we can return at no extra cost, with this in mind I thought a season ticket might not be best for us as I had a view it would take until quite far into the season for him to feel truly settled. How wrong I was!

From the first moment I rang up, the staff in the box office were amazing and put me straight onto Pam.
Pam was wonderful, I felt she listened to my concerns and quite frankly my moaning, I did not feel rushed and she made me and my son feel valued as a customer. After the phone call I felt so positive about bringing [redacted] to the games and knew if I had any problems Pam would be at the end of the phone for us. I cannot thank you enough it is not often I look forward to going somewhere.

The beginning of the season came and he was very withdrawn which I had expected, but we did not have to leave one game. The first breakthrough came around November time when a fan who was celebrating asked [redacted] for a “High-Five” which he did with a smile, from then on I can truly say it has been amazing! He has started talking to other fans who have spoken to him. He has even started to move independently around the area of our seats. He asked if he could wait for the players to have his programme signed which I thought I would have to manage for him, again I was wrong he talked to the players, who were also incredible being patient with him and I felt they listened to him which I know he feels he does not get very often.

So we now have a young man, who regularly asks to leave the house to go and practice his Puncheon corners or his Zaha runs. I have just had a meeting with his school who have said this year he has started to speak out in class and has recently given a class presentation which is incredible. Which I think is without doubt the result of coming to Selhurst Park.

Therefore, I would like to say the biggest thank you to all of you and the work you do to help young people like my son. You have all helped him in every aspect of his daily life.