June 2015

Els for Autism launches pilot series for its Ernie Els #GameON Autismâ„¢ Golf Program aimed at using golf as a life skills developmental tool for individuals on the autism spectrum.

To have golf used as an effective supplementary therapy for people with autism … The pilot series is a crucial step in helping us reach that goal.

Ernie Els, Els for Autism Founder

Els for Autism has launched a nationwide pilot for the Ernie Els #GameON Autismâ„¢ Golf Program. The #GameON Autism Golf Program is aimed at developing life skills, encouraging social interaction, and promoting healthy living through golf for individuals on the autism spectrum. Each session is designed to help build self-esteem and confidence in a fun, welcoming and supportive environment; encouraging participants to learn golf skills while practicing specific autism learning concepts.

The comprehensive program, which has been developed by Els for Autism with support from PGA REACH and thru a grant from New York Collaborates for Autism from the proceeds of Comedy Central’s 2012 Night of Too Many Stars, utilizes multiple evidence-based practices, identified by the National Professional Development Center on Autism. It consists of nine group lessons and takes four and a half weeks to complete with golf lessons taking place twice a week. Each session has a specially designed lesson plan that delivers golf instruction paired with specific autism focused learning concepts, including: communication, regulatory, motor and social skills.

Over 100 children in seven cities across the U.S. will take part in the pilot program that runs from the end of April through 2015. In each pilot city Els for Autism has selected a host golf facility, golf partner, and autism partner who the Foundation will be working with during the pilot program. Stonybrook Golf Club in Hopewell, NJ is the program’s local host facility.

Mike Attara, President of Spirit Golf, the management company for Stonybrook Golf Club and a member of the NJ Golf Foundation, says “We are pleased to be part of this groundbreaking pilot program. It’s a natural fit with our company’s values and mission of helping grow the game and reaching into the community. I’m proud that Stonybrook was asked to participate. Our Professional Staff, led by PGA Professional, Joe Porter has done a great job preparing for the program.”

“To have golf used as an effective supplementary therapy for people with autism is a pretty exciting concept for me and I have been lucky enough to have seen first-hand the incredibly positive effect that the one-day golf clinics can have on participants. Our end goal is to develop #GameON Autism Golf into a comprehensive program that can be rolled out so that more individuals with autism can have access to this specialized program world-wide. The pilot series is a crucial step in helping us reach that goal,” said Els for Autism Founder, Ernie Els.

He added: “We are so grateful for all the support we have received from the organizations and individuals that have helped us develop #GameON Autism Golf as an initiative over the past couple of years, in particular PGA REACH and New York Collaborates for Autism who have enabled us to develop and implement this pilot series for the program.”

“Sports and other recreational activities can be the bridge to creating meaningful connections for people with autism to others in their life. NYCA is grateful that Ernie Els and his foundation have used their expertise to teach people with autism how to play golf and thereby engage with others through the game,” said Ilene Lainer, President, New York Collaborates for Autism.

Els for Autism is thankful to all of the organizations and individuals that have supported the development of the #GameON Autism Golf initiative over the last couple of years to get it to this stage, in particular: the PGA of America, PGA REACH, The First Tee, U.S. Kids, The Honda Classic, New York Collaborates for Autism, Adams Golf and Southwest Airlines.

Donations to the Els for Autism Foundation can be made online at: Els for Autism.

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