Answers by Albert Via
How did you hear about ACEing Autism?
I heard about ACEing Autism through Coach Danny, he was teaching me at the time at the Copperfield Racquet & Health Club, and was head of ACEing Autism Houston and he told us about it. I thought it would be great to give back and experience tennis in a different way. I volunteered there in 2017-18.
Can you talk about your first couple of clinics and what it was like?
The first couple of clinics, it was a change since I had no experience with autism. I didn’t know if I could communicate with the kids but Coach Danny did it quite a bit and I learned a lot from him. We treated them as people as well, made them feel comfortable and like they belong, which also helped ease my own nervousness.
Can you talk about your overall experience, what you’ve learned through ACEing Autism and what made you come back?
I kept coming back because it was a way to help out the community and stay connected with tennis. We learned from each other as most volunteers were regular and we usually worked with the same kid. I’ve learned how to talk and interact with kids on the spectrum, I’m definitely more patient, and I acquired new skills on how to help them keep their focus. For example: my friend and I worked with a child for a while, he was around 6 or 7 years old and it was sometimes hard to interact with him due to motor skills. He also had some difficulty with attention but we found ways to get him to refocus as we got to know him better. We would ask him to look at the ball and asked the color of the ball. Then, we would make sure he focused on the ball before he hit it and it worked for him.
In Houston, I helped recruit volunteers while playing tennis with my friends at Copperfield and some of them came and helped out when they could. If they’re new, it’s probably easier for them as you’re in it together, it was easier to interact and play with the kids. It’s easier because we know each other.
Talk about coming back to ACEing Autism after a break, this time in Austin?
I took a 2 or 3 year break because I went to college at the University of Texas Austin. I majored in electrical and computer engineering and I’m graduating next week. My schedule was lighter this year so I was able to come back and I I was glad to be a part of the Austin location.
What’s next for you?
I got a job in Houston so if my weekends are free, I’ll definitely go to the Houston program and help out again.