First off I want to thank everyone who is involved in ACEing Autism for allowing me to become a part of such an amazing program. My life has been truly transformed in such a powerful, positive way and a great portion of it is due to ACEing Autism.
I’ll start off with a little bit of my life story and where the hardships began. From about the age of 13 I decided that it was my goal to play college tennis, I was dedicated and had no intention of my goal not being reached. But sometimes life throws uncontrollable things your way. In 2014, at the age of 16, I was in a nearly fatal car accident. I suffered internal bleeding, along with shattering my L5 vertebrae, and breaking my left ankle in three places. My injuries were very severe and required several surgeries to put me back together. I spent a week and a half in the hospital until I got to go home. Even at home things were rough for a while. I wasn’t coping well with my injuries, I hated life and I felt sorry for myself, I thought my life was ruined. It took a very special program called ACEing Autism to show me that I was okay, that I would heal, and to teach me some very valuable life lessons.
I got an email from my high school coach saying that volunteers were needed to start up the program ACEing Autism at our local country club. I loved volunteering and I loved tennis, seemed good enough to me, little did I know at that time what an impact those kids would really make on my life. I showed up in a boot and a back brace thinking I would just check things out. From the second I started the program I felt a very strong connection. I remember to this day the names of all the students I have worked with. My first child was a sweet young girl, she was very high functioning and caught on to the sport very quickly. Secondly, I worked with a young boy who was much challenged. He taught me patience and how to be excited over the little accomplishments. The beginning was challenging for him; he didn’t understand the concept of hitting the ball over the net. Once we got that down we worked on technique. Slowly but surely he was hitting rockets over the net, groundstrokes, volleys and serves, he did them all! I have never felt so proud of anyone in my life. When the sessions ended I had a new found happiness. I had never felt so excited about anything before. I missed the program so much and I couldn’t wait for the next sessions to start. During that time between sessions I needed to have another surgery on my back as my fusion had failed. This surgery hit hard and I was in desperate need of help. That time was what you call “rock bottom” for me. I soon got an email that the sessions were starting again. When I arrived I got placed with a new student. He was smart but very shy. It took him a little to get comfortable with me. I had never seen him even smile until one of the last sessions, he ran around the court laughing out loud, and talking to all the other kids in the drill. Once again I knew that this young boy had been positively affected by ACEing Autism and that he had learned new traits that would help him in his life. When these sessions ended I was sad but I had a new job in mind as I got ready to head to college: I decided I wanted to spend every one of my days working and helping children with autism.
I am currently searching for any other autistic programs I can get involved in. I also am hopeful that next year I can start my own ACEing Autism program at the university I am attending. In many ways I can see the difference I made in the children’s lives that I worked with. But I know that it went both ways. My life has become so much more positive and I see that I can accomplish all my goals. The kids taught me not to take my life for granted because I will heal. As of now I have officially committed to playing tennis at Metropolitan State University on a Division II tennis team. All the obstacles that I have faced have been unable to stop me from achieving my goals. This is a message that I would like to pass on to anybody who is facing life’s challenges. ACEing Autism is an amazing program that I hope I can continue to work with in the future. I want other people to have positive experiences as I have because these children are truly amazing.