As ACEing Autism’s reach continues to expand, we are connecting with new communities as well as witnessing some wonderful gains in program development. At two of our locations we are piloting ACEing Allies, a peer-modeling program that, at the outset, is showing positive results. In this program, a typically developing child works alongside a child with autism, participating in the class to model appropriate behaviors, good social skills, and tennis strokes.
The ACEing Ally is either a sibling or a child of similar age to the child with ASD. Having a peer model work with a child on the spectrum allows both children to benefit, to learn from seeing appropriate behaviors modeled and to practice social skills, such as turn-taking, making eye contact, initiating verbal interactions, and developing conversational skills with same age peers. Our Allies are there to learn the game of tennis, but they are also there to offer help and encouragement. A child with autism is much more likely to learn from a peer model than from working one-on-one with an adult instructor. Our peer models will illustrate a forehand stroke drill, for example, and the child with ASD will be more likely to make an effort to copy their Ally.
Having an Ally present is not only great for the self-esteem of a child with ASD, but our peer models are given the opportunity to interact with kids that they may have never had direct contact with in every day life. The development of compassion, tolerance, acceptance, and understanding of those who are different from themselves has been overwhelmingly seen in all of our peer models, from the middle school age all the way down to the 5-year olds.
Another exciting result from this model has been the number of peer models who are being introduced to the sport of tennis for the very first time. Many of our peer models have started taking private lessons because of their involvement with ACEing Autism. Not only does the peer model appear to accelerate improvement in our participants with ASD, but it is also growing the game of tennis!
– Richard Spurling, Founder and CEO of ACEing Autism
April 18, San Luis Obispo, CA: Former college player at California Polytechnic State University and head tennis pro at the San Luis Obispo Country Club, our Program Director Paige Louise saw an opportunity to bring our program to her club to support a member family of a child with autism. The club community provided tremendous support in turn, with a wonderful volunteer turn out from the women’s tennis team, as well as the siblings of participants there to help as peer models. Opening day was a hit!
May 30th, Encinitas, CA: Another terrific launch! Our first Encinitas session at the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club was made up of 20 new participants. Special thanks goes toProgram Directors Emily Templin and Jennifer Robinson for connecting ACEing Autism to so many families and resources in the Encinitas community, and to Coach Joe Tomasifor bringing the San Dieguito Academy Tennis Team to volunteer!
May 2, Seattle, WA: Our Program Director Chris Cassaza, a former college tennis player and long time Seattle resident, has grown our local program from finding a home with Tennis Center at Sand Point to recruiting volunteers and reaching local families to find participants. We had a great turn out for the program launch, with 15 children ages 4 to 17 years old. Our next Seattle session is coming up this fall!
June 15, Deerfield, IL: After a move from Boston back to the Midwest, Vanessa Vogel-Farley, Program Director and our very own Director of Operations, is heading up a new site at the College Park Athletic Club. They started with a very successful soft-launch in April of a 4-week session prior to the launch of their summer program. We are very excited to have this location piloting our peer-modeling program in order to develop ACEing Allies for expansion to some of our other sites around the country. For more on our next steps in program growth, please read Vanessa’s article below!
May 17th, The Help Group Resource Fair, Sherman Oaks, CA:
Thank you Justin Belisario, Jessica Milton, and Becky Woolf for spreading the news about ACEing Autism to The Help Group community!
Stephanie’s Day, June 20th, Studio City, CA:
Our 5th year participating in this exciting event at CBS Studios!
July 11th, 2-3:30 p.m.: ACEing Autism’s Tennis FUNdraiser at the Beverly Hills Country Club, 3084 Motor Avenue, Los Angeles, CA: Head Penn and The Skill Zone will be on hand with new product demonstrations and games, and ACEing Autism will be holding a raffle with some terrific prizes. All proceeds from the event go to support our Los Angeles programs. RSVP to email@example.com
August 26th, 8-10 a.m.: Queens Day at the US Open, Flushing Meadows, NY: As part of our second year participating, ACEing Autism we will be offering a free tennis clinic for children of all ages during the qualifying rounds of the U.S. Open. Sessions will run from 8-9 a.m. for the 10 and under age group, and 9-10 a.m. for children 11 and up. Stay afterward to watch the U.S. Open qualifying matches, free of charge!
September 19th, Long Beach CA: Grand slam doubles champion Vania King, an alumni of Long Beach Polytechnic High School, will be bringing ACEing Autism to her alma mater this fall. The school’s boys and girls tennis teams will also be lending a hand as program volunteers. The 7 week session starts September 19th, and registration is now open!
November 19th, 6:30-9:30 p.m.: Save the date for our annual fundraiser! We will be returning to the Beverly Hills Country Club for an elegant evening to celebrate ACEing Autism and to raise funding to sustain our nationwide programs. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
ACEing Autism: Where Tennis Meets Science
ACEing Autism has been successful in starting new programs nationwide and we have witnessed some amazing gains in our participants. Due to this we are often asked in what specific areas our participants are making improvements and why. To answer these questions with facts rather than what we “think” is going on, we have added a couple of ways for us to collect the scientific evidence we need.One is an “expectations questionnaire” on the participant registration form as well as an “exit questionnaire” that parents receive after their child completes the season. In addition to these parent questionnaires, the volunteers that work with the child will be collecting some information on the child’s skills when they enter and leave the program. Together these small additions to our program will provide priceless information on how we are doing and what we can do to improve. In our next newsletter, we will highlight specifically what we will gain from the information we collect and hopefully have some data to share from our summer programs! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. -Director of Operations and Deerfield Program Director Vanessa Vogel-Farley