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Left to right: Maf and Dennis

A youth worker has described his experience of working with a young man suffering with Fragile X Syndrome.

Maf is a youth worker and has worked with disabled and vulnerable young people for a number of years.

When Maf met Dennis in February 2012 on the Second Half Project, he had not a clue about Fragile X Syndrome.

This did not stop Maf befriending Dennis, who goes by the nickname Deno, and supporting him as they completed three courses together.

Fragile X Syndrome is a genetically inherited condition that causes learning disabilities, short attention span, hyperactivity, and social, emotional and communication problems. In addition the syndrome is associated with low muscle tone and gross motor skill deficits which can pose barriers to easy movement, balance and co-ordination.

The combination of these physical difficulties and the attention and concentration difficulties, which impact on learning and memorising new skills, presented big problems for Dennis.

Dennis, 23, has overcome his difficulties while training for his FA level 1 coaching certificate and playing football for the Bradford City Disability Football Club.

Fragile X Syndrome is a hidden disability and can affect 1 in 3,600 boys and affects 1 in 6,000 girls. The syndrome has been found in all populations and ethnic groups and diagnosis is established by Fragile X DNA test.

Speaking about his time with Dennis, Maf said: “During the Sports Leadership Level 1 and 2 courses, Dennis and I learnt about different aspects of coaching in football. I had been involved in coaching sports to people with learning disabilities before, but working alongside Dennis enabled me to improve my skills a lot more.

“Furthermore, Dennis showed an active interest in coaching sessions, so I entered into a new field of helping him to conduct sessions and teach too. Previously, I had only taken part in increasing participation but not encouraging further participation. Coaching has allowed Dennis to gain a greater understanding of sports leadership and coaching in general.”

Since completing the course, Maf has been volunteering to coach football sessions conducted by Bradford City Disability Football Club with help from Dennis.

Maf said: “Through Dennis I learned how to bring simplicity into my coaching. He has been instrumental in teaching me how to break down training into its simplest forms so that everyone, whatever their level of ability or disability, can make progress. Without Dennis, I don’t think I would have achieved this.”

Ian Ormondroyd, former Bradford City player, is the brainchild behind the Second Half project, which aims to empower young people who have had a difficult start in their life and are looking to build confidence, develop self esteem and learn new skills.

To reach their objectives, young people were involved in a mixture of class room and football activities leading on to a Sport leadership qualification.

The Second Half Project has now ended due to funding but a spokesperson has “requested business and banks to come forward to support this project as many of the young people including Dennis are making a positive contribution to the community and delivering sport related activity”.

The spokesperson also commended Maf for lending his time to the project and hailed him as a “local hero”, which they need more of.