Established in 2009 with the support of PGA REACH, the Els for Autism Foundation was created by PGA professional Ernie Els and wife Liezl to shed light on the issue of autism, which Els’ son Ben is affected by. As part of its #GameON Autism pilot program this spring, kids with autism are taught how to play golf at six sites nationwide, including a pair located in New Jersey.
One of the main purposes of #GameON Austism is to make children with autism “feel welcomed and included to play a round of golf, go to the driving range or take a lesson with their local pro.” This is achieved through nine sessions of approximately one hour, 15 minutes each that are specially designed to teach participants, ages 6-21, how to play golf.
The program’s curriculum includes exercises and work on new golf skills, as well as specific autism learning concepts that are implemented into each session.
#GameON Autism believes these activities can ultimately have a positive effect on self worth and confidence among individuals with autism and provide new opportunities for them to build friendships, relationships and deeper ties to the community.
Each #GameON Autism pilot site consists of three golf instructors that have gone through extensive training and one local partnering facility — either a school, center or autism society. Here, participants are matched up with instructors and subsequent feedback and evaluations are examined to further test the program’s effectiveness.
One of Els for Autism’s most recent programs took place at Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth, N.J. where 21 students from Newmark School in Scotch Plains visited and participated in a day of golf instruction on June 3.
Kathleen O’Brien of NJ.com was at the golf course for the event and wrote an article that appeared on NJ.com’s website on June 8. You can find her story here, which is accompanied by a slideshow of pictures taken at the event.
After this season’s initial round of instructions, the foundation will judge if the program is worth expanding to additional schools around the country. But, according to O’Brien’s article, the pilot program has gotten off to a good start:
“Whatever they’re doing, it works.” — Dave Fisher, parent of one of the students from Newmark School.
As the number of children diagnosed with autism is on the rise — currently one in 68 children in the U.S. are identified with the disorder — programs like Els for Autism and its #GameON Austism initiative are gaining steam in their efforts to unearth the latest research on the issue. For more information on Els for Autism, you can visit its comprehensive home site.