Meet Rhys Travis, a 7-year-old athlete from our Lexington, KY program. “He usually has a hard time transitioning so I was worried about transitioning to tennis on weekends but it’s been the most amazing thing, he never complains!” the mother of two tells us. “When it’s time to get ready, he puts his own shorts on and he also wanted his own racquet,” she laughed.

 

Living 45 minutes away from the program, from most of Rhys’ therapies, Elle tells us that it does take a toll on her family but it is well worth it. “The scholarship program has been such a blessing for us because his therapies cost a lot,” she explains. “Having that scholarship meant that we could come, it felt so great to be able to offer this when we didn’t have that in our family budget,” Elle joyfully recalls.

 

Rhys has never been a sports person and with his gross motor skills challenges, trying out sport hasn’t been a great experience,” she remembers. “When he tried, people didn’t know how to work with him, so I was looking for opportunities that would help him in that area.”

 

And this experience has proven life changing for the family of five, as Rhys was able to get a service dog, Toast, in 2021, who even comes to tennis. “It’s becoming such a blessing for the family,” she chuckles. “He struggles with people he doesn’t know but he is talking with Heather, he befriended her, and he’s loved every single person at ACEing Autism. He is talking with people he would have never talked to before, laughing and most importantly, he feels safe.”

 

On top of improving his social skills, he loves having a sport that’s his. “He’s talked in the past about having a sport that’s his, and now he is proud that he can put tennis on the line when they ask about your favorite sport at school,” Elle laughs. But more than that, “it has given him the confidence to try new things, which has led to a lot of improvements in physical activity,” she relishes. For example, “his elementary school offered a roller skating program and he didn’t want to do it before, but this year he said yes and he even got an award for being a hard worker,” she proudly tells us.

 

Then, Rhys joins the call and when he was asked what he loved most about ACEing Autism, he immediately responds: “my favorite part is when I get to do forehand!” he shouts. As his mother asks him if there is anything he loves about tennis, he continues, “I like Miss Heather and I know she is an advocate, I love it all around.”

 

As we wrap up our interview, Elle wants to thank everyone involved for meeting every single one of the athletes where they’re at. “As his mother, it has been special to see him come out of his shell, I don’t see him at school and how he interacts with leadership, so to see him interact that way is special.”

 

As his mother, it has been special to me to see him come out of his shell, I don’t see him at school how he interacts with leadership, so to see him interact that way is special.