Introduction so surfing for autistic children

February 18, 2019 by J-Wire
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800 children will take part in Surfers Healing camps targeted at those with autism.

The surfers healing camps were started 20 years ago by husband and wife team California-based Danielle and Israel Paskowitz. Their autistic son Isiah who struggled with meltdowns and sensory overload found riding the waves with his father calmed him.

The camps will be held between February 28 and March 2 at Cronulla and Manly in Sydney and on the Gold Coast in Queensland aimed at children including those who have never surfed before.

Israel Paskowitz said: “The charity was founded by my wife and me, parents of a grown man with autism. We get what the parents feel and would not do anything to harm that child or teen or adult. Out in the water is a moment of respite for the parents. There is a massive wave of emotion for the families watching their child doing something so rad and normal. We encourage people to come and see for themselves.

When I was growing up, my family wasn’t like other families. My dad, surfing legend and Stanford M.D. Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, wanted his nine children to have the wisdom that comes from life experience. So instead of living in a house, we lived in a small camper, travelling in search of our next wave.

All this helped me achieve my dream of becoming a professional surfer. I won major titles, major endorsements, major respect. In 1987, I married the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen, Danielle. Then our first child, Israelah, came along. My life was perfect.

Isaiah, our second child, was perfect too:  handsome, laughing, smiling. But then he began to regress. He stopped speaking and hitting developmental milestones. Diagnosis? Autism.

Isaiah is the inspiration for sure, and what I have learned from him has been very important because he is one of those kids on the spectrum that is low functioning and  he has “classic autism” so all the physical behaviours he exhibits for sure has prepared us for the worst case scenario, because when I get a mother that says, “ Well I don’t know if you and your surfers and handle MY son” – so I say your son is my son, and all my guys can handle my son 6’3” 300 lbs, so sometimes as well each child, or teen adult requires a different way of riding that wave. But I am telling you the magic is in the water itself.”

Each child at the healing camp is handled at their own pace allowing to accelerate their experience as quickly as possible. The goal is to spend at least 30 minutes in the water with each child, as well as catching and riding tandem on big boards. The most important is to let the water do its job, soothing the child’s mood, and replacing anxiety with the simple joy of riding waves.

Danielle and Israel train close to 100 experienced surfers worldwide.  They said: “Some children require a lot of input and guidance, which comes naturally to the guys so they have an immediate connection with the child, which is calming and intuitive.”

Israel advises any parent with an autistic son or daughter that there is not a more natural way to light up your child’s mind then sports and activity. It’s meaningful for the mind synapsis which fires impulses to the mind and produces dopamine which aids the brain’s executive function. Even if your child is non-verbal, never assume he or she cannot understand.

What Israel and Danielle have found is the water,  no matter what kind, had a temporary calming effect on their son Isiah, and the ocean has greater effects.

“The anxious child looks to us for guidance and the affirmation that this is a good thing…its kinda like riding a horse. That horse scenes your fear or bonds with your confidence. We understand the anxious reaction is going to be very common in all kids, but it is amazing to watch their transformation into excitement, and pride.”

In over 20 years of doing this, we each see more children on the spectrum than any doctor or professional in the world. We have trained and have men and a few amazing women like local Aussie Sophia Bernard and the surfers which have become our A-Team. They are true Autism Surf Therapists.

Danielle said: “Israel has been blessed to have been asked to speak at many youth sports seminars. He spoke this year in Washington for the Aspen Foundation and has been a keynote speaker for other autism groups.”

For Isiah who is now 30 years old, repetition and regularity are vital to him as a child on the spectrum. “The water heals. That is the physiological  truth”

For details of the upcoming surfing camps all free of charge: https://www.surfershealing.org/home

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