ACEing Autism Serves Positive Development for Kids with ASD

ACEing Autism a volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing our adaptive tennis program to the lives of children with autism. Connecting kids through tennis has been our aim for ten years and counting. Our goal is to provide an hour of fun, adaptive tennis to children and an hour break for parents, during which, they can watch their child develop into a tennis player! Our clinics aim to develop children's motor skills, hand eye coordination, build confidence and improve their general socialization, all within a fun, controlled environment.

Our program sites vary depending on location, and we work with Tennis Clubs, High Schools, Universities, and local parks to bring our program to local tennis courts around the country. This year, we have started to expand our programming so as to be able to offer our program in schools. Over the last ten years of growing ACEing Autism into the organization it is today, we are currently running programs at 69 site locations in 27 states, and we plan to continue growing each year in order to reach more kids and families affected by autism.

Tennis Teacher with Student

Here is Zoe playing with ACEing Autism at our 2018 US Open clinic with Hall of Fame legend, Pam Shriver.

Adaptive Sports Transforms Another Young Life

We are privileged to see the profound effect that this program has on the kids. Mira Tamir Spiegel, mom to one of the first children to enter this program, share's her daughter's life-changing experience with tennis.

In the summer of 2008, my daughter Zoe was one the first kids to help pilot ACEing Autism. She was 4.5 years old, had very few words and even less ability to attend. Our first one-on-one session with founder, Richard Spurling, was pretty much a disaster. Zoe wouldn't focus. She bolted all over the place. We couldn't get her attention. She looked in every direction except the one we wanted. We were on clay courts and Zoe scooped up the clay and put it in her mouth. I can't even describe how crushed I felt. I had played competitive tennis in college and always assumed my kids would both play and love sports. I started thinking up the excuses I would give Richard, fully expecting that he was about to utter what had become those all-too-familiar words, "Maybe she's just not ready."

But he didn't. Instead, Richard said "I think that was a good start. Will you come back again next week?"

Teacher with ASD Student

And so we began on this path, slowly knocking obstacles out of Zoe's way one at a time over these past 8 years. Sure, it's been bumpy at times but today Zoe hits running forehands and backhands with a smile on her face and has a killer forehand volley. My husband and I can take Zoe and her brother to the local tennis courts and play tennis pretty much like any other family.

I had just about started to take it all for granted when a new child joined Zoe's clinic a few months ago. He had trouble focusing. There were some behaviors. It was tough to get his attention. His parents had to keep going on the court to help. His mother looked at Zoe and said to me, "Your daughter is so focused and follows directions so well. She's so good at tennis and she is having so much fun. I don't think my son will ever be able to do this."

My mind wandered back to Zoe during that first session with Richard in 2008. Just then, Zoe hit a beautiful forehand, looked over at me, smiled and then turned to giggle with her volunteer as she scurried to get back in line for her next turn. Wow, I thought. Joint attention, shared enjoyment, social connection, motor planning, turn-taking, direction following, self-regulation and just plain fun—all right here on display in one ACEing Autism clinic. I guess that day back in 2008 wasn't such a disaster after all. It was the start of something great. I hope ACEing Autism will be the start of something great for your family, too.

ACEing Autism Tailors Programs to Meet the Individual Child's Needs

Not only is our national office located in Los Angeles, but we also offer our ACEing Autism program in four locations across the city of Los Angeles, including Burbank, Inglewood, MountainGate Country Club, and KEEN-Los Angeles. Our other Southern California locations include Newport Beach, Carlsbad, Santa Barbara, Long Beach, Yorba Linda, and Palm Springs.

Our Program Directors typically have either tennis or autism backgrounds, sometimes both! We aim to have tennis professionals run the clinics supported by at least one volunteer per child. Some children do great with one volunteer; others fare better with more or different types of support. We try to do what is right for each individual child and we feel it is our priority to provide a high level of attention to each child while they are enjoying tennis with ACEing Autism. We look for every opportunity to incorporate best practices for working with children with ASD into our clinics.

Teacher teaching tennis to Autistic Student
Each of our programs' cost varies depending on the length of the session and available funding. Our programs run for five to eight weeks, on weekends for one hour. We offer a few of our 69 programs for free, however, our programs generally cost $120 for the whole session. We also have scholarships available for families in need of financial help.

During all classes we provide a tennis racquet donated by Head Penn that each child can borrow during the lessons, as well as a t-shirt which they take home. The last clinic of each session is special, as we typically include an award ceremony to celebrate each child's unique and individual progress.

For more information and to find a clinic near you, visit

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