“To see them interact with other kids, stay on the field and learn the fundamentals was great,” Hight said.
Hight, 18, said the time with the Good Shepherd students was relaxing and it jogged her memory of her own childhood soccer matches, which she said lacked the stresses of competitive games that came as she grew older.
“There's just such excitement for them to be out here. It reminds me of what it was like to be out there and just play,” she said.
Donna Kearns, principal at Good Shepherd and a professor of applied behavior analysis at the University of Central Oklahoma, said the time on the soccer field represents more than sports lessons for the children with autism.
“Motor coordination for a lot of our students is a major issue. This interaction has encouraged them to improve their motor skills, which helps to improve their language and socialization as well as other skills,” Kearns said.
“It's been a really helpful program for our students.”
Good Shepherd School opened through a collaborative effort between Mercy Health Center, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the University of Central Oklahoma.
The McGuinness girls soccer players' participation with the Good Shepherd students was part of the local Kick Start soccer program for children with autism.