Children With Autism Find Surfing Peaceful & Therapeutic

By Samantha Finch, Parent Herald September 15, 01:06 am
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Doing water activities helps children with autism achieve peace. Surfing, for instance, can be therapeutic for kids with the developmental disorder.

Surfers Healing is a non-profit organization that gives children with autism a better quality of life by exposing them to surfing. The surf camp is based in Southern California and was founded in 1996 by professional surfer Israel "Izzy" Paskowitz and his wife, Danielle.

Surfers Healing's conception came about when the Paskowitz couple witnessed a breakthrough in their own autistic son, Isaiah, who became "different," happy, and stopped having meltdowns whenever he was thrown in the water, USA Today reports. Paskowitz said that for kids with autism, "there is something powerful" and "therapeutic" about "the weightlessness of floating, the lightness of riding a wave."

Surfers Healing offers surf camps all across the United States and even in Mexico and Puerto Rico. The organization's Ocean City (Maryland chapter), which was held recently, saw more than 100 families taking part. Aside from surfing seasons, the Ocean City chapter co-chaired by Kat Trammel also offered free food, arts and crafts, music, and games, according to another report from USA Today.

Lauren Mazza and her 8-year-old autistic son, Jude, have been participating in Surfers Healing's Ocean City chapter for three years now. Mazza said the event is "uplifting" and makes their family "feel normal" by allowing them to enjoy a recreation day without fear and anxiety and without judgment from other people. The surf camp is full of people who understand what life is like with an autistic family member.

Rob Tinus, a local surfer who has been volunteering in the camp for years, called Surfers Healing events as "a beautiful thing," though he admits that dragging kids with autism in the water isn't easy at first. Tinus said autistic children would resist the surfers as they get in the water, but "the tension disappears" and they become "calm" once the surfing starts.

Surfers Healing has two upcoming events in Honolulu and Hilo, Hawaii on Nov. 26 and Dec. 2, respectively. Interested participants can register here.

There are beliefs that people with autism are drawn to water and bodies of water, but that's not the whole truth. Robyn Steward, who also has autism and trains professionals about the condition, said autistic people "could be distracted" by water's appearance.

People on the autism spectrum tend to fixate visually with the patterns and ripples water makes, BBC reveals. This is why missing people with autism are often found near bodies of water.

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