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Surfing

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When Archie was first diagnosed we could only think about life in neurotypical terms. Everything we did was with the aim of working towards normality, and a life we recognised as worthwhile. We researched (and tried) therapies, we read up on ways to encourage speech, to work on language to search for the answer (we thought there was one).  As the years passed it became obvious that normality really wasn’t going to happen. Archie is 12 now, still non-verbal and still requires a lot of day to day help.

By the time Archie was 8 it was becoming pretty clear that his life is likely to be a severely autistic one and we needed to start living it. We needed to deal with the fact he was severely autistic and stop waiting for him to be magically high functioning enough to suddenly be able to access mainstream activities. We also began to understand that a life doesn’t have to be so-called normal to be worthwhile – he has a good life now and there’s no reason that cannot continue. And so since then, slowly, we’ve increased the activities we do. It seems like a small thing, but when I became a Mum I imagined doing things that were fun with the kids, not hours of autism therapies and so we began to drop those and focus instead on experiences. After all isn’t this is what life is about – a series of experiences?

Which brings us onto surfing. With Archie being non-verbal with challenging behaviours  and limited awareness of danger- surfing didn’t exactly leap out as a potential activity. We’d never have tried surfing with Archie  without the surfers going out of their way to encourage participation. Initially he was able to go on a few trial sessions at an annual event called Breaking the Barrier – which to our surprise he loved, now he goes out regularly with a local surf school, and occasionally even with me (yes, the surf school has been giving us lessons).

Sometimes he rides on a an extra long board and the surfers can pull him up to standing, other times he goes out on a 9 or 10 foot board, gets pushed into the wave and then is on his own. He’s quite happy to scoot along on his tummy or kneel and with a lot of encouragement and yelling from us will occasionally try to stand.

He gets a real buzz from it. These days  I tend to think his autism isn’t such a problem in itself, it’s a pain when it stops him being able to do things, especially fun stuff-of-life activities, so surfing is one of the things that has made a real difference to his life and all our lives.

We’ve been surfing this morning, and life is good.

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I’ve become very interested in animal assisted therapies recently. Partly because I’ve been getting quite involved in horse riding in general and  in equine therapy specifically, but I’ve also been surprised by the way being around dogs affects my son.  He’s not a great animal lover. He likes horse riding, but he finds fur difficult. I was therefore staggered to find him very interested, indeed fascinated by my friend’s guide dog. My friend’s dog is very calm which I think helps.

If this is something that interests you, you might be interested in the book Cowboy and Wills by Marni Wander. Amazon is giving a publication date of July, but you can find out more from the myspace or facebook page. I have been fortunate enough to have received a copy already and was interested to find that Cowboy is, like my friend’s guide dog, a golden retriever. Wills is much higher functioning that my son, but the changes described are similar to those I observed in my son around my friend’s dog. A lovely heartwarming story.

This might be (time permitting) the year we add to our family with a dog……..

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Communication Matters is a UK charity concerned with supporting AAC. They run a series of roadshows where communication devices are demonstrated. These are usually free. 

List of dates here. 

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