Esther Forrester, founder of Elftennis, recognized that there are very few options for autistic students to learn to play tennis in New York City. Forrester believes that anyone who wants to play tennis should be given the chance to learn the game.
Because tennis is portable from location to location, Elftennis has the flexibility to reach out to alternative groups of students. Currently, Elftennis works with children with autism at Special Needs Activity Center for Kids (SNACK) located on E 86th Street. Forrester says “Many of the kids are making headway. At first the kids had difficulty holding the ball. Now some are able to connect a ball with a racquet. They are hitting forehands and backhands and thoroughly enjoying unleashing their power. It has been very rewarding to teach them.”
Forrester adds that there were several factors that contributed to her success with the children. “Getting comfortable with the kids is key to earning their trust. They can sense when you are comfortable,” she assesses. In addition, Forrester says that instructing the students’ aides was also critical. “Teaching the aides to assist with coaching and demonstrate an activity was very helpful.”
Forrester explains that tennis helps autistic students work on tasks that they may find daunting at first. Also they may find it difficult to share and take turns. With appropriate coaching, they learn to share the racquets and tennis balls. Some students have difficulty making the transition from one activity to another. Elftennis classes require participation in three different activities and the children need to make the adjustment. Also important is that the children learn to recognize and accept the role of their team mate while throwing the ball or hitting to their aid or partner. Forrester believes that tennis is teaching the children life skills.
Esther Forrester can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (631) 948 1103. For more information, please see her website www.elftennis.com
Photo by rbut