Blog #190~ Nick & Buddy Up Tennis
I took my son Nick, to the Buddy Up Tennis program over the weekend. Buddy Up Tennis is a high-energy, adaptive tennis and fitness program for children and young adults with Down syndrome. They provide fun and rewarding 90-minute clinics on a weekly basis. The program currently serves 550 individuals ages five to young adults with Down syndrome across the country. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how cooperative Nick would be given that he has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism. I am happy to report that he participated and followed directions fairly well, for his first time out.
This 90 minute Buddy Up Tennis-Naperville clinic, is held at Five Star Tennis Center. Athletes are paired with a buddy and start off with a warm up. Each participant gets to toss the dice and perform a variety of calisthenic exercises like toe touches, push-ups, jumping jacks and sit ups. Nick needed some prompting on these. I had to laugh when everyone got down to do push ups and Nick was still standing. Then about the time he got down on all fours, the rest of the group was up doing jumping jacks. 🙂
After the warm-up, the participants break up into groups. The younger kids use modified equipment and balls on a separate court. The teens and young adults move to circuit training. Stations are set up focus on balance, agility, hand-eye coordination and upper body movements that mimic tennis strokes and serves.
Nick navigated each station with prompts, praise and elbow bumps, from his buddies and coaches. He moved at a slower pace than his peers, and there were a few stations he was less interested in. But overall, did a good job!
After circuit training, the athletes worked on volleys and ground strokes. Nick needed more prompting and hand over hand assistance, to move through these drills. But he remained patient and compliant. It really helped to have a peer partner and the coaches cheering him on, as well as the other athletes modeling appropriate behavior.
Towards the end of the clinic, Nick did begin to lose interest in hitting tennis balls. I grabbed a ball hopper, and he and his peer buddy collected balls. Nick is good at putting things away, so this kept him perked him up and engaged. For the last 10 minutes, all the groups come together, and play a few rounds of duck, duck, goose. Then, the coaches present certificates to the top awesome athletes for that week. Nick was awarded one of these for working hard. Yay Big Guy! 🙂
Overall, I feel the experience was a success for Nick. I was a little nervous going in, because he can be loud and distracting with the stimming behaviors associated with autism. However, these behaviors were quite diminished during the clinic. It reminded me of when Nick was in a full inclusion classroom, when we first moved into the Chicago area, 15 years ago. Positive peer role models is one of the benefits of placing your child in full inclusion classroom. When Nick was in a full inclusion classroom, the loud noises, tapping and other stimming decreased. That alone, makes it worthwhile to enroll him in the next session coming up in January.
I plan on making a few visuals of the calisthenic exercises, circuit stations and sequence of moving through the drills will help with transitioning. For individuals with autism, it helps to have a picture schedule to assist them in understanding what is expected of them. If they can see it, they can better understand it.
Buddy Up Tennis is a wonderful program, and I’d like to thank the coaches and volunteers for the opportunity to have Nick be a part of group. For more information about Buddy Up Tennis, visit their website at http://buddyuptennis.com/
That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂
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