WESTON, Mass.- For the past two months the Regis College men’s and women’s tennis teams have been spending time teaching autistic children the fundamentals of tennis. Head coach John Ciarleglio was pleased with the enthusiasm from both his players and the children at the Longfellow Tennis Club. “We were looking for an opportunity to work with kids that would hopefully take advantage of our love of tennis at the same time.” Participation in Richard Spurling’s ACEing Autism program allows the Regis tennis team an opportunity to have a positive impact in a child’s life.
Spurling and Dr. Shafali Jeste founded ACEing Autism in 2008. The mission of the program is to make the sport of tennis available to children with autism and to use tennis as a means to enhance health and fitness, hand-eye coordination, motor development, and improve the social skills of children with autism. The program has grown tremendously since its beginning, currently serving over 100 families in the greater Boston area.
It is probably not surprising that the Regis players are also having a great time as well. MJ Barron (Whitinsville, Mass.) and Caroline Roche (Hanover, Mass.), co-captains of the Regis women’s team agreed that working with the kids, watching them have fun and make progress in so many ways is both enjoyable and rewarding. It is also challenging as autism encompasses a spectrum of disorders and the children vary widely in their abilities and impairments.
The Regis players have worked individually with specific kids and in other cases; several players are involved with one kid. For Coach Ciarleglio, it’s been fun helping the kids learn to hit tennis balls, but it’s been just as much fun watching the Regis players, including men’s teammates Dan Berdichevsky (Wayland, Mass.), Jonathan Dost (Taunton, Mass.) and Matt Smolko (Pelham, N.H.), at yesterday’s session, with beaming smiles as they enthusiastically yell “great shot” to their eager students.