Autism – A Guide for Run Leaders

York Knavesmire Harriers 

Autism: A guide for run-leaders


York Knavesmire Harriers (YKH) is an inclusive running club.  With more than 400 members, it is proud to be a running club for all. The Club’s ethos states that:

  • YKH is “a club based upon the values of equality, personal responsibility, democratic cooperation, self and mutual help, respect for all and friendship”. To live up to this ethos, we will continue to strive to take actions that allows YKH to accommodate all, from all backgrounds.


  1. What is autism?

The National Autistic Society provides helpful information in this guide, “Autism, sport and physical

activity”.   Autism is “a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people on the autism spectrum share certain

differences, their condition will affect them in difference ways.” It is estimated that there are over

700,000 people in the UK on the autistic spectrum, which equates to more than 1 in 100 people.


  1. Behavioural traits of those on the autistic spectrum

Possible traits can include:

  • Very literal interpretation of verbal communication.
  • Difficulty interpreting and engaging in small talk, banter, humour and verbal nuance
  • Difficulty interpreting different tones of voice and non-verbal communications
  • Difficulty accommodating an unstructured routine, or unexpected changes in routine
  • Difficulty in perceiving how their own communication style could be perceived by others


Mis-interpretation or mis-understanding of situations, or confusion about the structure of a situation

can cause anxiety in the mind of the autistic individual. This can result in what could be perceived to be unusually direct or aggressive verbal behaviour by another, even if that is not the intention.

It is important to also acknowledge the possible strengths of an individual on the autistic spectrum,

including attention to detail, problem solving, concentration and reliability.


  1. Proposed guidance of run leaders

There is no expectation that run leaders completely change their style of leadership in an effort to

accommodate the possible needs of club members who may be on the autistic spectrum. However

the following four considerations at the beginning, during and after each session could ease possible

heightened anxiety in the mind of the autistic, and all, members:


  1. Be clear in communicating your running plans, and immediate next steps
  2. Be concise in your communication, to avoid “information overload”
  3. Avoid jokes during briefings
  4. Check understanding with all runners prior to proceeding


Any concerns can be raised with the YKH Welfare Officers.