Surfers for Autism – Our Day at the Beach
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Meet my son. He was diagnosed at age 4 with Asperger’s (which is now simply “autism spectrum”) although we knew before he turned 2 years old he was on the spectrum. You couldn’t miss my son on the playground or in a group of kids. Now at age 8 – unless you have a lot of experience with kids on the spectrum you wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a crowd….most of the time anyway. Early intervention has made every ounce of difference for him.
Thankfully he was our first child so as a stay/work at home mom I was able to hard core hit early intervention with 100% of my energy 100% of the time. It was exhausting beyond belief. I used everything I could get my hands on and set backs were terrifying. I honestly don’t know that I could do it again – it was H.A.R.D. He’s in no way cured but he’s advanced tremendously through the continual help of therapy and counselors and really great friends and teachers.
A few years ago, when he turned 4 years old, we attended a Surfers for Autism event in Treasure Island, FL. Surfers for Autism is a non profit organization dedicated to introducing the sport of surfing to special needs kids. They travel all over Florida (and occasionally Georgia) holding these free events for children on the autism spectrum and related disorders. Not only do hundreds of volunteers come out and spend time with each child allowing them to surf, but they also provide a free lunch to the children and their families. They have game booths and free sunscreen set up, and sell “Surfers for Autism” gear to help raise money for autism-associated charities. This event is inclusion in its highest form.
It was a safe place to let people be themselves. Whether they “looked” normal, acted “normal” or whatever their situation was. Meltdowns were expected but there were a LOT of smiles and a LOT of excitement. My son was definitely on the younger end of those out there but it was a fantastic experience. I wish we still lived in Florida so that I could volunteer at some events when they came nearby. It means SO MUCH to families who might otherwise be deterred from trying a trip to the beach or even out for a fun activity.
It was SO good for my son to be able to see other children with special needs and to teach him that everyone is different. It helped him feel less out of place and appreciate that everyone had their own quirks and differences – some more than others – and that’s OK. There were no odd looks or rude comments made – everyone understood. Everyone had an understanding that each child was different and unique.
You can find Surfer’s for Autism on Facebook to stay current with their most up to date locations! I was so proud of my son who had an absolute blast surfing!! The weather was great and the volunteers were amazing. If you have a child on the spectrum or live anywhere near the locations – GO! GO! GO! Experience it with your child in a safe place. Volunteer to help other families and children.