ACEing Autism Holding Fall Tennis Clinics
For the past few years, the ACEing Autism program has provided children on the autism spectrum with a chance to learn the fundamentals of tennis while socializing with their peers. ACEing Autism is once again offering that opportunity to local youngsters this fall, when the program will host a six-week session of tennis clinics every Saturday beginning on Sept. 19.
ACEing Autism is a national non-profit organization that specializes in tennis training programs tailored to meet the unique needs of children on the autism spectrum. Founded in 2008, the program features more than 70 program locations throughout the United States, including a Connecticut chapter that’s run by North Haven High School girls’ tennis Head Coach Bob Migliorini, his wife Maureen Fay Migliorini, and his daughter Alyssa Migliorini, a former tennis player at North Haven.
One of the reasons why Bob and Maureen Migliorini started the Connecticut chapter of the program is because they wanted their five-year-old son Aidan, who was diagnosed with autism in 2017, to be able to enjoy the sport of tennis. The Migliorinis organized their first ACEing Autism clinic in June 2018 and continued holding multiple sessions each year with the most recent one taking place this winter. While there were no spring or summer sessions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bob Migliorini is excited that ACEing Autism will be making its return in the autumn of 2020.
“It’s an outstanding program. There is a huge need for activities and programs like this in Connecticut, so I think that we’re doing a really good thing for children in the autism community,” said Migliorini. “Our goal is to continue to grow the program and make it available to more children and young adults in Connecticut.”
The ACEing Autism program is available to anyone between the ages of 5 and 20. At the clinics, participants are broken up into two groups—one for kids aged 5 to 10 and another for people aged 11 to 20. The clinics are run by Bob and Alyssa Migliorini with assistance from several volunteers, including current members of the North Haven girls’ tennis team, along with program alums Emily and Julia Migliorini, who also are Coach Migliorini’s daughters. The goal is to have someone available to work with each individual participant for 1-on-1 instruction.
“One of the big benefits of the program is not only the tennis skills, but also the social aspect. Children on the autism spectrum need activities and sports programs they can take part in, and tennis is a really good sport for that,” Bob Migliorini said. “It’s a little different than teaching tennis to high school kids. It’s a more structured approach. We need more 1-on-1 to assist them, so we rely on volunteers from our North Haven girls’ tennis team. And it works out well for them, because they get community service hours that they need to graduate.”
Coach Migliorini said he appreciates how North Haven’s players have donated their time to help the clinics run smoothly. Some of the athletes who have volunteered in the past and who Migliorini expects to do so again are seniors Nadia Kavgaci, Sophia Raposo, Megan Kell, Gillian Benowitz, Kaitlyn Ha, Rory Preschel, Haley Clark, and Gabriello Tropeano; juniors Noelle Caramody, Ally Vollero, and Zoey LoPresti; and sophomore Risa Tobin. Migliorini, who also coaches men’s and women’s tennis at Albertus Magnus, said that North Haven boys’ tennis player Billy Lipinski has helped out at the clinics, as well.
The upcoming ACEing Autism sessions will take place outside on the tennis courts at the North Haven Athletic Complex each Saturday from Sept. 19 through Oct. 24. The clinic for the 5 to 10 age group will be held from 11 a.m. to noon, and the clinic for the 11 to 20 age group will be from noon to 1 p.m. The cost is $60 for the entire six-week session or $10 per individual session, although there are scholarship opportunities available to people in need of financial assistance to participate.
Migliorini said that there will be COVID protocols in place at the clinics. All of the instructors and participants will be required to wear masks and maintain a distance of six feet between one another. There will be prescreening for all participants and instructors to ensure that they don’t have any COVID symptoms before they walk on the court. Hand sanitizer will be readily available. Parents are not only encouraged to attend the sessions, but will also be allowed to be on the court with their children to make sure that everything is being done safely.
“Tennis is a low-risk sport in terms of COVID, and we can have a good program in this environment,” Migliorini said. “Kids haven’t been in school since schools were shut down, so there really is a need right now for socialization and sports activities.”
Migliorini said that he measures the program’s success by how much the players enjoy participating. His objective is to make the clinics fun for the kids, so that they want to come back for more. Migliorini added that he’s looking to expand ACEing Autism in Connecticut and potentially start up programs in other areas of the state down the road.
Right now, though, Migliorini is focused on doing everything he can to make the 2020 fall session a positive experience for everyone involved.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” said Migliorini. “We’re chomping at the bit to get back on the court, do what we love to do, and teach tennis to kids and young adults.”
To register for the ACEing Autism program, visit aceingautism.org/locations/north-haven-ct. For more info, contact email@example.com.