The origins of ACEing Autism started with one child open to trying something new and one volunteer excited to spend time with her on the tennis court. That first clinic led to a second appointment, then a third, and so on. Now, 15 years later, Zoe is still participating, having fun, staying fit, and cheering fellow players. Zoe’s original instructor, ACEing Autism Founder Richard Spurling, continues to meet participants and their families at clinics and create new programs nationwide. Nothing has changed. Everything has changed. 


Fun, fitness and family are still the heart of ACEing Autism. Just one hour of tennis a week has proven to have a significantly meaningful effect on a participating child. Families looking for a joyful experience have found it in the ACEing Autism family. Today there are more than 5,000 volunteers that have partnered with more than 3,800 children on the court to help them meet new friends, master skills, move, smile, and celebrate. It’s powerful. It’s natural. It’s the future of activity for kids on the spectrum.


ACEing Autism is thriving and growing after 15 years because of the spirit of optimism that emanates from that single hour of tennis at an ACEing clinic. When Richard started thinking about the original program, the focus was on how to create a tennis program for children with autism. The questions were: would they be able to focus, would they be able to hold a racquet, could the children learn how to play? It was very hard to imagine that building a simple tennis program would create so much more than connecting with a tennis ball. What quickly became apparent was that everyone present is gaining something whether it is the volunteers showing care for their participant or parents making new friends. The fact that children in the program not only make gains in physical health, but make cognitive improvements, is incredibly rewarding for all.


The ACEing Autism family, from coast to coast, is unique. Its care for one another is sincere and deep. Program by program, clinic by clinic, participating children and families courtside can depend on a consistent, happy experience. ACEing Autism’s annual assessment of growth and development in participating children verifies overwhelmingly positive outcomes. It’s the largest sport-based program for children on the spectrum. Its model, efficacy, and size are unique. Yet fundamentally, there’s something special about the simple act of a child connecting their racquet with a ball, high-fiving a fellow player, giving their parents a sweaty, proud hug at the end of a clinic and asking “are we coming back next weekend?”


The hallmarks of ACEing Autism haven’t changed in 15 years; fun, fitness, and family fuel the happiness of thousands throughout the year. Now, we spring from this foundation of success to an exciting future. 


  • Serving More. Today, ACEing is serving children in more than 130 communities and schools. Before 2035, we envision 10,000 children connecting through tennis in 500 programs. We foresee more programs being a part of school curriculums. Because tennis is well-known as a lifetime activity, we aspire to serve young adults, addressing a national void in support for this worthy population.  
  • Quality Experiences That Evolve. We’re always measuring outcomes and learning what works and can be adjusted. The individual experience of each child counts. Continuous improvement in the experience of a participant will enrich the knowledge we all gain about sport-based activity. 
  • Educating Society. We’re providing an impact-driven volunteer experience for students that in many cases influences courses of study and career paths. Volunteers gain an understanding of autism, commit to helping others on a regular basis, and grow as citizens that care for fellow citizens. 
  • Leadership. ACEing will apply what we learn, our expertise and thought-leadership to help other programs and the larger autism community enrich lives of those often left out.


As April is Autism Acceptance Month, this is the perfect occasion to kick off our anniversary festivities. Beginning in April and through the fall, we’ll offer fun activities for everyone to reflect and look forward. Check out below a snapshot of what we have planned and how you can be involved. As these programs launch, you can expect to receive more detailed information.


  • Parents Corner

ACEing Autism’s new community for our Parents. This initiative will help parents learn about opportunities to become more involved with ACEing Autism and help us reach more families and communities. Here is a one sheet overview of the program that you can share with your families and use to recruit parents on our continued journey.

  • Local Event Ideas

If you are looking to create a fundraiser for your program, these tools offer ideas, guidance and more. We will provide more detailed information later this month.

  • Coloring Activity

The is a fun activity to engage our younger participants so they are part of our celebration. You’ll find instructions in the 15 Year Toolkit document and a coloring sheet to pass on to your athletes so they can submit it to us. We want to thank Shonn Brown Jr., one of our participants from our Williamsburg,  VA, program for letting us use his design.

  • Video Essay 

We are finalizing the details on this specific activity, so stay tuned, but the general idea is that we’ll be inviting everyone to record a short reflection of being involved and hopes for the future.


ACEing Autism has been a source of fun, physical fitness and family joy. Now, it’s the future of meeting the needs of millions on the spectrum who deserve happiness through sport. Celebrate 15 years with us. Be a part of a fun and fantastic future. We look forward to celebrating this milestone together!