Every tennis game starts with love.
Nowhere is that more evident than at FDR High School when tennis coach Bob Mayerhofer gathers his varsity players together to teach some of Hyde Park’s autistic children about their favorite sport.
“Before I retired from teaching,” said Mayerhofer, “I had been involved with Special Olympics and I wanted to find some way to keep helping young people with special needs.”
His wishes were granted when he learned about a program known as ACEing Autism, which was started in Boston in 2008 by tennis professional Richard Spurling and his wife, Shafali Spurling Jeste, a child neurologist. The program, which is offered free to children with autism spectrum disorders, currently spans six states, including Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, California and New York.
Hyde Park’s program was brought to fruition by Mayerhofer along with Lynn Forcella, the mother of an autistic child and other parents of autistic children, with support from Aviva Kafka, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education in Hyde Park. The program is one of only four active in the state. The others are located in Dobbs Ferry and Ithaca, and at Riverside Park in New York City.