FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Registration

Registration opens only 2 times per year: once in the fall, and once in the spring. We do not set definite days and times for registration because our calendar is always changing. Instead, we open registration as soon as our clinic schedules become available. To receive the registration announcement, you must be subscribed to our e-newsletter.

We will send a registration website link to everyone on our e-newsletter list.

Click the link, fill out the form completely and accurately, and you will receive 2 confirmation emails:

  1. confirming that we have received your submission (immediately), and
  2. confirming that you have a definite spot for the season (days to weeks later).

Registering does not guarantee your child a spot; registering holds your child’s place in line. We check each registration for completeness before sending the final confirmation emails. We only accept 100% completed online registrations.

Due to high demand, spots fill up quickly and we can only pair our trained volunteer athletes with kids who have a finished registration form.

When you register, you will be asked for your child’s sports preferences, so that we can make sure we have the appropriate variety of equipment on-site during play sessions. However, you do not need to commit to one particular sport for the entire season.

Many parents stress over choosing which sports to suggest for their child, but it’s not something to stress over! Kids are incredibly resilient and exploratory all on their own when they’re with their A4A mentors.

Read our starting guide to choosing between individual and team sports, list a few of your best guesses on the registration form, and let us help you and your child navigate beginner’s sports… It’s why we’re here!

Locations

Clinics are currently offered at the following universities:

  • Boston University — Boston, Massachusetts
  • Boston College — Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

This list will be updated when the remaining colleges finish their registrations.

Our next clinics will open in Rhode Island and Kansas.

Official clinics for the 2017-18 season will be announced next year.

Privacy and Safety

Each volunteer athlete takes an orientation course that fully introduces each participant to the programs. We teach basic safety and response, and often (but not always) have first aid certified volunteers on-site during clinic hours. A first aid kit is always accessible during session times. Each volunteer and child plays at their own risk.

All participants must sign 2 waivers (or a longer waiver combining both sections) at the time of registration:

  1. Releasing our host universities and their student volunteers from any liability, and
  2. Releasing the Athletes 4 Autism organization from any liability

Signing these waivers means that you understand playing sport(s) comes with certain inherent risks for injuries.

A4A sessions do not involve intense person-to-person contact, as sessions are meant to teach sports and social skills at basic levels. Sometimes, bumps and bruises happen, which we are prepared to handle.

As a reminder, we ask parents to stay on-site in the waiting area in the event their child needs them for any emergency.

We do not run background checks on our athlete students and rely on the host university’s judgment for appropriate participation. Every student-athlete is required to be screened for NCAA compliance approval before being eligible to play their varsity sport. We feel this screening is thorough and well-managed by our host universities.

Before attending A4A events:
  • Show your child YouTube videos of other children playing the sports available during clinic times. Encourage a dialogue about what sports are most interesting and least interesting, so that you can tell your child’s volunteer buddy what sports might be best to start with.
  • Show your child pictures of the host university. Driving past familiar campus landmarks and knowing what the gym play area will look like in-advance is often comforting for new players.
  • Practice our 60-minute schedule during playtime at home.
    • 10-minutes: warm-ups and stretching
    • 10-minutes: skill practice #1
    • 10-minutes: skill practice #2
    • 10-minutes: skill practice #3
    • 10-minutes: inclusive play (if desired)
    • 10-minutes: cool-down and stretching (sometimes still with our included new friends!)
On event days:
  • Arrive well-hydrated and fed a simple, medium-filling, healthy snack/meal.

Note: this is a great time to suggest healthy options that are otherwise avoided during the rest of the week.

We have had great success with parents explaining to their child that he/she must eat a healthy snack in order to play with their athlete… The kids never want to disappoint their new friend!

Let your child’s athlete know if healthy foods are particularly challenging, and we can do “food checks” (asking “what healthy snack did you eat today?” at the door) to reinforce healthy eating choices with you.

  • Check that shoelaces are tied (double-knotted), water bottles are filled, and that jackets stay with you in the waiting area.
  • Take a bathroom break before every session! Athletes are not allowed to escort their buddies to the bathroom. Bathroom breaks are allowed during sessions, of course, but they do cut-in to the skill building time available, so we try to minimize distractions as much as possible!

You can access our Privacy Policy by clicking here. 

How Clinics Work

Before A4A campus events begin, you will receive an email with important logistics information, including the address to put into your GPS.

When you arrive to the venue doors, you will see signs (with arrows!) pointing you in the right direction. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you’re greeted by the athlete leaders sitting at the check-in table.

Your child’s athlete buddy will be waiting for you both inside the play area!

Each A4A University donates available athletic space for our sessions, and since each university is unique in both design and availability, each season’s setup will be unique, too. Typically, sessions are held at the indoor basketball courts where players and their athlete volunteers mark off their individual play areas with orange cones. This way, its easy to manipulate boundaries for inviting new friends to join a game, or moving to a less stimulating area of the room.

Check-in at the check-in table with the student leaders. Your student leaders are on-hand to answer any questions you may have throughout the weekly sessions. Feel free to ask them anything anytime!

Please note: We do ask that if there’s a big crowd checking in, please hold your questions until the crowd disappears. We want to create as calm and inviting of an entryway as possible.

The student leaders will introduce you to your volunteer athlete on Day 1. After the first session, you can walk into the gym by yourself after checking-in with the student leaders.

Remember to keep your child’s coat, boots, toys, and iPads with you in the parent waiting area. Water bottles and rubber-soled sneakers are only allowed in the play area.

Eligibility

Our sessions are best fit for children between 4 and 14 years old.

Due to NCAA compliance rules, university athletic departments are not allowed to host children over 14 years and 9 months on their campuses for any beneficial purpose, because this counts as unfair scouting/recruitment.

Some universities will make exceptions to their allowed age range, and in the event children on the autism spectrum over 14-years-old are welcomed, we will make a special announcement via our e-newsletter and Facebook page.

Every participant must be able to use the bathroom independently. Our volunteers are able to help with nearly every other skill required by athletics, but cannot assist in bathroom breaks.

Most universities are required to phase children out of the A4A on-campus programs due to NCAA regulations that forbid the entertaining of recruitable kids on-site (recruitment age is 14 years and 9 months).

However, if a child has been participating in A4A and has a positive, long-standing relationship with their athlete volunteer, you can individually request an age extension through the host university so that the relationship can continue as long as the athlete volunteer is enrolled.

Mostly, though, the goal is for children at age 14 to be transitioning to an inclusive sports program in their school or town. At 14-years-old, many seasoned A4A players are ready to try the team and individual sports they’ve practiced in the gym in the “real world”. Many volunteers choose to stay in touch with their buddies even after their weekly sessions have ended, and this helps make the transitions easier.

Each relationship is judged on a case-by-case basis, and we encourage parents to focus on their child’s current experience. Do not worry about the “phasing out” when your child is 12 or under. We promise, we’re always working on improving transitions and we’ll help you the best we can!

Yes. We welcome a matching number of neurotypical children to participate in A4A clinics, too.

Children who play well with others who are different are encouraged to apply. They get the chance to hang out with the cool university athletes and get sports lessons for free, but do need to be mature enough to show patience, adaptation, and positivity when their buddy on the spectrum might need some extra assistance.

When typical children participate, they gain first-hand friendships with kids who have autism and their athlete mentors, and they gain acceptance and appreciation for everyone’s unique abilities. Many A4A children go on to be student-leaders who initiate inclusion programs at their schools. How au-some is that?!

All kids improve gross motor skills, learn the rules of a game, stand up to bullying, make friends, and learn how to explain autism to someone who doesn’t understand it.

Communication

When your child’s spot is confirmed for the upcoming A4A season, you will receive a welcome email detailing all important information you’ll need in the days ahead. This includes your program’s direct email address.

We encourage you to read through all of the Frequently Asked Questions on this page, as many common questions are answered here first.

Please note: student volunteers manage the university email accounts on behalf of the host campus and A4A. We do our best to respond in a timely manner, but sometimes the volume is overwhelming. We promise to get back to you ASAP!

The best way to get in touch is by sending us a private message on our Facebook page.

Yes, with the prior consent of the athlete volunteer and in moderation.

Most athlete volunteers love to hear updates throughout the week regarding progress made, skills practiced, etc. and we encourage you to share those positive moments with them. Some athletes may choose to help your child practice social skills over FaceTime/Skype video chats during the week, but this is purely optional and not required by their program commitment.

In general, please be sensitive to the fact that when volunteers share their personal contact information, this information must be used respectfully.

Basic rules:

  • Do not call or text message before 9 AM or after 5 PM.
  • Please do not let your child contact their volunteer without your supervision.
  • Wait until your volunteer has responded before sending multiple messages.

We have had instances where parents abused the privilege of communicating with their child’s athlete volunteer, and would hate to forbid the practice across the board! Show courtesy and we promise courtesy will be shown back.

If you know in-advance that you will be unable to make that week’s clinic, please email your university chapter leaders directly. If you know less than 24-hours to clinic times that you’re unable to attend, or if you are running late, please text or call your child’s athlete volunteer so they can make proper arrangements.

First, thank you for emailing us! We promise to get back to you as soon as possible.

Often, our inbox fills up so quickly that it takes us a few weeks to send individual replies. We want to make sure you receive a personalized response. Thank you for being patient as we respond to each of you!

Donations

We apply each general donation where it’s needed most within the charity. If you would like your donation to apply to the area of your choice, simply write that request in the “notes” section of the donation form.

Donations can be made online or by mail.

Click here to make a donation online using your debit or credit card. All donations are processed through PayPal, which means your information is secure and privately processed immediately.

To donate by check, please make the check payable to “Athletes 4 Autism”, and mail to:

3710 W 73rd Terrace, Box #8037
Prairie Village, KS 66208

Please note that checks may take more than 30 days to clear. If you would like acknowledgment or confirmation of the donation’s receipt, please note the request in your envelope. We can email or mail you the confirmation letter.

Autism

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.

A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.

— Source: Centers for Disease Control

Facts and Figures

  • Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys
  • Autism prevalence figures are growing
  • Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S.
  • Autism costs a family $60,000 a year on average
  • Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism
  • There is no medical detection or cure for autism

— Source: Autism Speaks

People with ASD often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. Signs of ASD begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life.

Children or adults with ASD might:

  • not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over)
  • not look at objects when another person points at them
  • have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
  • avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to
  • appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
  • repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
  • have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
  • not play “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll)
  • repeat actions over and over again
  • have trouble adapting when a routine changes
  • have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
  • lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)

— Source: Centers for Disease Control

The core symptoms of autism are challenges with communication and social interaction, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests.

Right now, there is no specific medical test for diagnosing autism. Specially trained physicians and psychologists administer autism-specific behavioral evaluations in order to make an official diagnosis. Below are some signs that indicate a child should be evaluated:

  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by 6 months or thereafter.
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by 9 months or thereafter.
  • No babbling by 12 months.
  • No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months.
  • No words by 16 months.
  • No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months.
  • Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age.

If your child is showing these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your pediatrician for an Autism Evaluation.

Autism is a complex disorder with highly variable symptoms and severity among the individuals who have it, so meeting with a pediatrician is important. If your child does receive an ASD diagnosis, your pediatrician will help build your caregiver team and establish essential Early Intervention Services.

Participating in an Athletes 4 Autism program is a great supplement to your child’s early intervention plan, but A4A should not be the sole autism support for your child.

Each individual with autism is a unique person who experiences life with autism in his/her own way.

One person’s experience with autism will not be the same as anothers’.

The term “on the spectrum” is used to describe the variations in exceptional abilities and challenging disabilities for people with an ASD. Some people with autism are able to live independently, while others need intensive interventions to get through their typical day. The spectrum is a range that allows doctors, researchers, teachers, therapists, and families to explain the general experience of autism to someone who may not otherwise understand.

Athletes 4 Autism honors the distinct ways people with autism view the world and respects the need for improved quality of life for our autism community.

Volunteering

Of course! Each volunteer takes an online orientation course that teaches you the basics of autism, working with the special needs community, and how our A4A charity works.

When it comes to interacting with a person with autism for the first time, it’s okay to be nervous and unsure of what to expect. Our orientation will help ease those first time jitters, but what might be most helpful is remembering that kids with autism are KIDS. They love to run, jump, play, be silly, laugh, and often, they are the best example of just enjoying what you individually love without caring what others think!

There is so much to learn and love from our autism buddies, and their autism parents and guardians are rockstars at helping facilitate introductions. They’ll be happy to share the inside scoop on their child’s favorite — and not-so-favorite — activities and ways to learn.

If at any point you feel like you need more guidance, we have an awesome staff of Student Leaders to guide you on-site, and a growing online blog that expands upon common questions. We’ll email you those resource guides once you’re enrolled as a volunteer, and you’ll have direct contact information for your leaders so you can reach them anytime!

Volunteer sign-ups are online only. You can sign-up to be a volunteer at your local university chapter by clicking here: Yes, I want to volunteer!

We do all of our volunteer training through a digital classroom, so that volunteers can learn at their own pace and on their own schedules.

To gain access to this digital classroom, you must be registered as an official volunteer for the current season. You can apply to volunteer by signing up for the volunteer mailing list here.

If you are already a registered as an official volunteer, but need help resetting your digital classroom login, just email “hello@athletes4autism.org” and we’ll help you ASAP!

Otherwise, we’ll email you blog posts that help answer some of the common volunteer questions in greater detail. Make sure you’re enrolled as a volunteer to get on that list!

There are so many opportunities for personal and professional growth as a student leader.

  • Serve as a leader and autism advocate on-campus and in the local community.
  • Collaborate with other like-minded student-athletes nationwide, and work closely with a dedicated team of leaders on your campus.
  • Gain professional experience for your resume and earn volunteer hours.
  • Help your university earn national NCAA community service awards.
  • Acquire real world skills in marketing, fundraising, event planning, volunteer development, community outreach, etc.
athletes4autismFAQs