Everyone knows that April is the time when the weather heats up, the flowers start to bloom, and the tennis balls fly. But something that is not as well-known is that April is National Autism Awareness Month. And did you know that tennis and autism are a perfect match?
Tennis is a social sport that presents a natural opportunity to develop skills that many with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) find difficult to achieve. The benefits of tennis for children with ASD are vast and even extend beyond the tennis court. Not only does learning tennis allow for hand-eye coordination, motor skills, and focus – which is especially important for those with ASD – it also allows children to build confidence while working on their forehand!
Around the country, there are organizations that provide tennis programs specifically to children with ASD. One such program is ACEing Autism. ACEing Autism’s program allows children on the Autism Spectrum to learn the sport of tennis through an easily flexible curriculum catered to each individual child’s needs. The firm schedule of the program provides a calming presence, which is important for those with ASD. What’s more, the organization’s tagline “Connecting Kids Through Tennis,” is exactly what ACEing Autism does – the program allows tennis to be the vehicle for socialization amongst those with ASD. Overall, it truly is a win for all involved; children learn new skills, parents from the autism community band together and volunteers share a sense of solidarity by helping to give back.
ACEing Autism runs two programs in the Mid-Atlantic, one of which had their official launch on April 2 (Autism Awareness Day). The new chapter is located at Johns Hopkins University and is a six-week program running every Sunday from 3 to 4 pm. If you are interested in volunteering or participating but do not have the time to commit to an entire program, Wheaton Indoor Tennis is hosting a one-day clinic on Sunday, April 30 for youth with ASD.
During National Autism Awareness Month, take an active role to help raise awareness of Autism. Give back to organizations that directly help those on the autism spectrum. Volunteer for organizations that benefit those with autism. We owe it to all those individuals who live with ASD. They deserve a future that is just as bright as ours.
Justin Belisario is Director of Programs for ACEing Autism and serves on the USTA National Adaptive Committee. Justin is also an alumnus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.