The562’s coverage of Long Beach tennis is sponsored by the Long Beach State Tennis Boosters.
Being adopted at the age of four chanced Ulises Kuijken-Lewis’ life for the better, so now the Wilson senior is trying to pay it forward by directing ACEing Autism classes every Sunday this month to provide affordable tennis programming for children on the spectrum.
“I wanted to share my passion for tennis with other kids and the ACEing Autism program allows me to give back to the community that way,” Kuijken-Lewis said. “Tennis is a passion of mind. In my situation I was very lucky that my parents adopted me and introducing me to all of these great things in my life. The fact that I’m able to help others get into something that I’m passionate about and get to have the opportunities that I did. It makes me very happy.”
Kuijken-Lewis found about about the ACEing Autism program from talking to opponents from Long Beach Poly who also started the program. He contacted the founders and was quickly on conference calls with them to set up the logistics like court time and equipment. Kuijken-Lewis also contacted other local organizations that work with autistic children to spread the word. Some of his tennis teammates at Wilson have donated their time to being instructors.
“It’s been really cool seeing your son as an adult working working on something and take a leadership role with other adults,” Kuijken-Lewis’ dad Richard Lewis said. “I’m so impressed and proud of him and his fellow Wilson students, and just the patience that they bring to it. It seems like they’re enjoying it as much as the kids participating.”
“It’s a long process but it’s definitely worked out and so far it’s been really fun,” Kuijken-Lewis said.
ACEing was developed by Richard Spurling, a tennis professional, and Dr. ShafaliJeste, an autism researcher and pediatric neurologist, to use tennis as a means to provide unique social and developmental benefits to children with autism. ACEing Autism has many schools participating, and according to its official press release, it currently serves 2,000 children across 113 programs nationwide.
Kuijken-Lewis said the classes start with stretching and then hand-eye coordination and foot work. They move onto racket skills and moving towards the ball with ground strokes. The classes finish with serving and a fun game.
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