You would be justified in wondering why a blog that is primarily about an AAC method has a page dedicated to surfing. Partly because I’ll probably talk about it a lot and partly because I want to encourage people caring for kids with severe autism to give surfing a go.
For Archie surfing has been pretty much life changing. In common with many children with severe autism it’s been very difficult to find activities that he’s able to engage in and enjoy. Most activities last a few minutes; our most successful prior to surfing was hill walking on Dartmoor, or horse riding, although horse riding often only lasted about quarter of an hour.
Archie was able to try surfing at the annual Breaking the Barrier event. This gave him an annual free half hour surf. Often accompanied by beautiful weather (if flat conditions) these are fun, easy going days where people with learning disabilities fill the beach and the atmosphere is friendly and laid back.
After the third event, Luke, the surf coach pictured above who had taken him out suggested we start to bring him more regularly for surf lessons with Discovery Surf School. And so the obsession started. He’s been going pretty much weekly since this summer. This video was shot on a mellow Bank Holiday Monday morning.
He is showing no signs of stopping for the winter. I’m updating this in January and we’re still surfing most weeks. And whilst we all enjoyed the beautiful early autumn conditions when the sun shone and the waves were clean
Archie now really loves the wild and windy days when the surf is big.
In August 2010 I was able to arrange a day for some of the kids who attend Archie’s respite centre to have a go at surfing. It was a very successful afternoon and something we hope to repeat. The surf school arranged a free session for children with autism in October and there were quite a few takers from the respite centre. For Archie it is surfing regularly that has been so beneficial and I have a sort of little dream to see this being made possible for more children, by raising awareness, working in partnership with local authorities and raising funding. Surfing gives this group of children a freedom they are rarely able to obtain elsewhere in their lives. Challenging behaviours and a limited understanding of dangers mean that elsewhere this group of kids may need to be shadowed constantly by adults, they may need locked doors (our front door has four locks), they may need to wear harnesses when out and about to prevent straying or running into the road. On the beach and in the sea they can have a few moments of freedom. It’s a little thing, but for Archie has made all the difference. His life is now pretty much built around surfing.
May 2012 update: Plymouth City Council have very generously funded four surf sessions over the summer for children with severe learning disabilities.This includes one session that will be filmed, with the footage being used for a music making session at Plymouth Music Zone. Please get in contact if you would like further information.
June 2012: we have just had the first session funded by the council. It was very successful, introducing two new children to surfing. We managed to get some video footage on my little Flip video camera, which probably says all that needs to be said.