It’s check-in Tuesday, and we’re headed to Burbank, CA, this week. “This is the largest clinic we’ve ever had with a third of new registrations coming in,” Brooke Fennell, one of the co-Program Directors said. ” So, the first few clinics were a bit challenging to navigate to keep everyone engaged,” Trey Mihal, the other co-Program Director, expanded.
But Brooke and Trey put their creative hats together to ensure every clinic was as fun as it could be. “I did use tokens for some time when I sensed some lack of engagement,” Trey, who is a BCBA, added. Moreover, they also learned their participant hobbies to help connect and motivate them, on top of incorporating games in between drills. “We also do player awards where they never get the same award from session to session,” Trey explained. “We keep track of them and we also make speeches and keep them ambiguous until the end,” both Trey and Brooke laughed. “It becomes a paparazzi zone as the parents take pictures while they wait to know who is being called.”
Something that also helped make the session even better are the new tools they’ve been able to buy thanks to the grants they’ve received. “We got a lot of tools to keep them engaged like a ball machine, inflatable targets, which has been really helpful,” Trey mentioned. “That has made the clinics more fun for them because it’s something that’s next level so it has been fun to see the progression,” he continued. “Even just the level of tennis from summer to now has increased a lot,” Brooke added. “The extra equipment has really helped because we can ramp up the level of the ball machine for instance.”
Another positive of this session was their treasure box. “The athletes love getting a little gift when they win a game and they reminded us if we forgot it,” the now best friends said, as they recalled THE instance when they forgot it. But what made this session even more special for this ever energetic pair was seeing all the progress and friendships being formed right in front of their eyes. “A pair of boys became best friends through ACEing Autism and their families have become best friends as well, and they do things outside of the clinic such as going to Universal Studio, go to the movies, or playing tennis,” the Regional Manager Verbal Behavior Associates excitedly shared. “Brooke’s idea of having a theme each week really got them talking during introductions too. They started talking and realized they had a lot of things in common and that helped build these connections. At the beginning, some of them were timid and shy but by the end, they were comfortable talking in front of the group.” Brooke jumped in saying that “within week two or three, instead of me asking to raise hands, the participants would start talking on their own and share.”
Even though there were a lot of positives, their session wasn’t without challenges. “Our biggest challenge was getting volunteers so far as it was a three-hour clinic,” Brooke noted. “They could sign up for one hour at a time so the first hour we would have 15 volunteers, then seven the second hour, and two the last hour for example. But we’re going to change how we’re operating for the next session,” Brooke said, as she smiled.
As the interview wrapped up we asked about next session, they looked at each other, smiled, and said that they already knew they were going to start back up in January. “We just need to confirm the courts with the Burbank Tennis Center, but it’s just a formality at this point,” Trey pointed out. They can’t wait to see everyone again so check back in soon for the Winter 2024 dates or to find your closest program: https://aceingautism.org/communityprograms/.
We want to thank Brooke and Trey for their dedication to the Burbank program and all their hard work to make each clinic special for the families. Congratulations!