LONG BEACH (CBSLA.com) — A national program designed to help kids with autism is thriving in Southern California.
Local high school students offer the kids free tennis lessons. It’s a program that benefits teacher and student. You could also say it is a literal, and figurative, labor of love.
CBS2’s Joy Benedict reports the program – called Ace-ing Autiusm — is most definitely a game-changer for the children.
For 8-year-old Alana, Saturday mornings are filled with lobs and lessons. She just started learning tennis three weeks ago.
You wouldn’t know it from her backhand.
Benedict told Alana that she was very good.
“I know!,” she said, matter-of-fact.
The lessons are also a delight for Alana’s mother who has watched her daughter struggle with many things since she was first diagnosed with autism as a baby.
“It’s great for them to be around adults that they’re not normally around and take direction and for them to learn a new sport, “ says Alana’s mom, Robin Arencibia.
Them refers to Alana and her twin sister Ashley. Alana’s twin also has autism.
“They’re in a lot of services and I’ve had to fight hard to get them,” Arencibia says.
There is no such fight to get into Ace-ing Autism. Benedict reports it’s a national program now available is 15 states and brought to Long Beach Polytechnic High just this fall.
Here, the program is run by high school students – all volunteers.
“i have a couple family members that have autism and I just really wanted my community to get involved,” says high school senior Jasmine Roberts.
The senior rounded up the tennis team to volunteer and mentor the kids. They spend Saturdays teaching two, hour-long classes for the children.
Alana’s a quick learner, she told Benedict.
“But I always have to take my time and concentrate,” she explained.
Alana and her class are about halfway through a six-week program but it’s not the end. They will start up again in January.
“It gives them something to look forward to,” says Arencibia.
There is no doubt Alana and Ashley will be back – perfecting their swing on the court and gaining skills to ace autism in life.
But for now, Alana wants to think more about game, set, match.
“Tennis is a really great game for everyone in the world,” she says.