Meet Yash Desai, a 9 year old tennis player from our Lexington, KY program. “After the diagnosis, it’s very scary at first,” Sameer, Yash’s father admitted. ”It wasn’t clear what was next and with autism, especially in the early stages, there is a lot of variability so we learned sign language to try and communicate.”

Yash was diagnosed at 3 years old but started like any other child for the first year and a half. “Then suddenly he stopped in his development, was a lot less verbal, and we knew something was off but weren’t sure what,” the tennis player himself said. As both he and his wife Megha are physicians, they realized something was going on.

“It’s a tough thing to accept that maybe we might not be able to speak with him but now we can, he is closer to his age and abilities than before,” Sameer said proudly. The first few years after the diagnosis were tough. But through perseverance, adaptation and trials and errors, they found what works for Yash. “My advice is try a lot of different things and see what works,” the father of two told us when asked what advice he had for parents who just got the diagnosis. 

Yash’s challenges ranged from transitioning from one location to another, language and being able to perform physical activity. But when Sameer discovered ACEing Autism 2 years ago, he wanted to give it a chance. “We’ve done soccer and a few other sports before and he never really looked forward to it but tennis is the first sport where taking him is easy and he looks forward to it,” he said with excitement in his voice. “Tennis is a great form of socialization, he recognizes coaches, volunteers, and it’s a physical activity. We weren’t sure how it was going to go but after the first couple of lessons, we realized he didn’t need us and it was even better for us to be off the court. He listened much better and he could be himself.” 

Thanks to tennis, ABA and other activities, Yash has gained a lot of coordination and now asks to ride his bike, go on walks and use the treadmill. “Tennis made him feel like he can do these things when before maybe he didn’t feel like he could do them. His confidence level has gone up a lot along with his ownership of things,” the beaming father said. 

On top of all these achievements, Yash can now read, do math, and do some school work. He has help from his brother Akash too, who teaches him life skills of his own like how to be at school. “We try to teach Akash a little bit about the diagnosis and he protects his brother quite well,” he said amused and proud. “He understands that there are some things we need to do that are slightly different with Yash than with him but overall he sees him as just his brother.”

Sameer’s last words of advice to new parents.”Give a chance to ACEing Autism. Parents who don’t play tennis might think that they might not be able to do it but we have been surprised by Yash and other kids and how much they all seem to enjoy each other and learn. It’s not just about tennis!”