During a family gathering, Shirley Gaw heard for the first time about a tennis program called ACEing Autism. “One of the guests had a teenage daughter who plays tennis and she told me that there is an ACEing Autism program that we might want to check out where her teenage daughter volunteers,” the enthusiastic mother explained.
This encounter was over a year ago and they have been involved ever since, even through the pandemic. With plenty of course in the community, a tennis program felt like a great activity for her children Kailana and Analu, who are both on the spectrum. “It is a good outdoor exercise program that helps with hand-eye coordination and promotes general body conditioning.
Even though Kailana wasn’t fully interested in the sport initially, after regularly attending weekly clinics, she now cannot wait to bounce a tennis ball with her racquet. “She loves practicing one on one with her dad, Andrew Tam, and she doesn’t complain anymore when we are at the tennis courts up to three hours!” Shirley said laughing.
On top of finding an activity that Kailana enjoys, their newfound hobby has “helped them be more independent and has taught them quick decision skills on the court,” the proud mom stated. As she continued to talk about other skills her children have learned, she explained that playing with other kids has helped them socialize and has also taught them the art of winning and losing, and never giving up. The mom of two also mentioned how tennis has helped the family keep active during the cold weather, the holidays, and even the pandemic.
On the court, Kailana has improved her attitude and behavior. “She has discovered calmness by just bouncing a tennis ball with her hand and the racquet and she practices her serves willingly,” Shirley said. Analu has improved his serves, returns, volleys, and foot work. He even signed up for a non-sanctioned tennis tournament back in October. But something even more remarkable that Shirley observed is that Kailana doesn’t ask for a smartphone or iPad while the family is out and about. She is now able to stay out a lot longer than she used to.
Tennis has even brought the community together as other kids join their weekend group practice. “We have learned patience, perseverance, and grown to love this sport as a family,” Shirley said. On top of her great progress on and off the court, tennis has become a great escape for Kailana and her family amidst all of the doctor and therapy appointments. “We have our basket of balls, racquets, hats and visors ready in the trunk of the family car. We make spur of the moment decisions to stop and play in any available tennis court when we have spare time,” Shirley told us. “This has been such a great blessing to our family during these social isolating measures in our local communities the past nine months.”