Surfing Turns Autistic Kids Into Rock Stars

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Rossman said he had seen "180-degree hard turns" in the personalities of autistic children after surfing. Such was the case with Shea.

"Prior to this, he would go out in water and maybe a wave [would] crash over head if he'd go out far enough," said Edmondson-Wood. "But he would go gingerly because he couldn't see under the water. He is so tactile and has to be able to identify things. When he steps on something, that unnerves him. To him, it could be anything from a shell to a sea monster."

A smart child with an uncanny recall and, sometimes, highly verbal, he tends to be isolated socially in school.

But on the beach, surfing, Shea is animated and excited.

Some of the children start just lying on large surfboards on the sand. Others go straight to the water.

"Some are really terrified and nervous," said Edmondson-Wood. "But the kids do it at their own pace."

"At school, his classmates kind of ignore him," his father said of Shea. "But when you watch the video of the kid in the blue mohawk surfing, it doesn't sound like the same kid."

Now, Shea as the "puzzled surfer" has a big Twitter following.

"It's like a huge support system," said his father.

But while the events are free, Shea's parents find it expensive to travel to events all over the state, so they have started a campaign page on the crowd-funding site, GoFundMe.com.

"We have been able to do some incredible things," said Rossman, including providing free water and food, as well as hotel discounts to offset those costs. But, he said, "we'd love to be able to cut checks left and right."

"It's a common story," he said of the children who attend the organization's events. "Once they are on the beach, you can't tell a kid with autism from any other child."

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