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How ACEing Autism Serves Our Community

ACEing Autism is a nationwide nonprofit that teaches kids and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder how to play tennis. There are 131 chapters around the country, and three in the Philadelphia area - Drexel Hill (at Idle Hour Tennis Club) in the fall and spring, Radnor (at Radnor Valley Country Club/HPTA) in the winter, and St. Joe’s University in the summer.

There are three pillars of the ACEing Autism program that are emphasized at every clinic across the country: to get exercise, to socialize, and to have fun. Before registering for a session, parents first share with volunteers what they hope their child will get out of the program so that every athlete’s experience is as successful as possible. 

For many neurodivergent children, participating in sports with neurotypical children can be challenging, according to Sarah Chambers, the mother of Isaiah Chambers, a veteran ACEing Autism participant. ACEing Autism specifically targets children who want to learn tennis, but need to do so in an adapted way. 

Sanjoy Biswas, father of ACEing Autism athlete Anikh Biswas, said sports are the perfect method to keep neurodivergent children “engaged and active.” Sports are beneficial to all, and he is glad that Anikh is able to find camaraderie with his peers through ACEing Autism. Similarly, the most important thing to Isaiah, said Chambers, is “to feel like he’s part of a team and a community.”

Biswas has seen a lot of improvement in Anikh’s playing over the last three years  participating in ACEing Autism. He and his wife, both tennis players, are “excited that Anikh can now play with us.”

To Radnor program director Jason Lipman, ACEing Autism focuses on the same athletic goals as sports programs for neurotypical children: “to have fun and to learn.” He explained that the main difference is that volunteers must meet the kids at their level and relate to their interests, finding a way to make tennis fun and engaging for every participant individually.

In addition, participating in ACEing Autism isn’t just beneficial for the players. Lipman said, “It’s nice to take some time and do something for these kids that they genuinely enjoy and help them grow. It’s rewarding to be able to offer that.”

In fact, the Radnor program held its first session just this year. Given Philadelphia’s typically chilly winter season, Radnor’s indoor tennis courts allowed participants to have uninterrupted tennis year-round. 

Through ACEing Autism, parents and volunteers have witnessed athletes come out of their shells and become more confident around their peers and on the tennis courts. Volunteer Leila Shah-Lipman said, “I love seeing the kids happy, which makes me happy.”

To learn more about participating in ACEing Autism, check out their website at https://aceingautism.org/


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