Answers by Rohan Reddy, Volunteer for ACEing Autism Baltimore:
How did you hear about ACEing Autism and when did you start?
I’m on the tennis team at John Hopkins University (rising junior), and Ryan Hellinger, the Program Director plays on it as well. ACEing Autism has been a tradition and Ryan mentioned we would get a session this spring so I jumped on it. I started this past Spring 2022 session
What interested you in volunteering with ACEing Autism?
I started playing tennis at 6 years old and started tournaments around 10 years old so tennis is a huge passion of mine. So any volunteering with that is great, and any opportunity to work with kids is always great for me, I love it. I like coaching a lot – I was coaching a lot during COVID – I love coaching kids especially and see their improvements, see their faces when they get something, it’s amazing to me.
Being a premed, any health related volunteer experience is also something I enjoy so it was a perfect place to volunteer.
Did you know anything about autism before volunteering for ACEing Autism?
Autism is new to me but there are a lot of resources available through ACEing Autism. Through them, you learn how to interact with kids.
What have you learned about yourself and autism through your volunteer experience?
It taught me how to be patient and I now have a much better grasp now on how to interact with them. I was surprised with the wide variety of kids, the differences between the kids and the way they exhibited autism and interacted.
For example, I worked with one child for a while who was more on the high functioning end of the spectrum, and then Ryan put me with a child who didn’t speak as much and he had challenges with his focus and motor skills. So I had to learn to be patient, come up with different drills, and different ways of talking and keeping their attention.
What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer experience?
I look forward to the challenge of figuring out how to best help the players. For instance, at the beginning of the session, the player I was working with didn’t make contact with the ball and after working with him for a while, he was making contact quite a bit. He also started smiling more, and the parents were also very happy with all the progress.
I can be challenging at first but it is super rewarding to see him progress like that and open up to us. We talk to the parents before and after the clinic and seeing the impact we have is amazing. The parents haven’t seen the player I’ve been paired with so active and happy, and seeing the kind of difference we were making makes it so special.
So what’s next for you?
I would love to take some leadership role at some point within the program. I’m also looking for other health related opportunities to volunteer.