"Nightline" recently aired a segment about the healing powers of surfing for autistic children. We solicited and received an enormous amount of E-mails for Izzy Paskowitz, the founder and president of Surfer's Healing. Below are Paskowitz' responses to some of your questions.
Thank you for your contributions.
Sheri Mills, Connersville, Indiana:
Hello. I also have a son who has autism, he is eight years old. I was wondering if you have any other suggestions, besides surfing, that you use as a soothing or calming exercise. My son loves water and swimming but living in Indiana these activities are seasonal. I love what you are doing for these children. I was brought to tears while watching your segment.
Sheri, I truly believe the water is the element that soothes the savage beast…,so a heated pool, hot tub, bathtub -- WATER is calming. Surfing and riding the waves with the kids is just…well, it's just that and nothing more. If Eli and Elah can surf why can't Isaiah? After all, my family has been teaching all people to surf for 35 years.
Tana Lorah, Bonita, California:
My question for you is, as a father, what was it that made you come to terms with the fact that your son is not going to change? My husband and I read and research autism constantly and we know the reality of what faces us. We accept it most of the time and realize that our son is a "package deal" and we can't break out the pieces we don't care for. But, I feel sometimes that my husband (who is the eternal optimist), believes deep down that our son will grow out of these behaviors. When did you realize that your son was "just the way he is" and how did you accept it and move forward? We adore our son and truly believe that he has a bright, fun-loving personality that no one ever sees. Thank you for sharing what you do with your camp, it was so wonderful to watch.
Tana, I think I made myself realize who he was for the sake of the family and I didn't want us to break to pieces. …we can hide from the truth in all kinds of ways. …Isaiah, Elah, Eli and most of all my beautiful bride keep me in balance. Isaiah is now 16.
Brett Sharp, Smyrna, Georgia:
What has been the longer-term impact of your program? Obviously, kids are happy when they surf into shore, and watching them trying something new is extremely moving. Have you heard from parents of kids after the experience? Has the experience of trying something so outside their comfort zone empowered the kids to try other new things?
Brett, long-term is, we will always have children with autism to some degree. Surf camp sure isn't a cure, [but] it sure is positive, fun, healthy, cool and I hope it's something you CAN do with an autistic child.
Try new things…dinner, a road trip, going to the market, taking our son trick-or-treating…you must echo [for others] what he or she CAN do -- someday they will all get it or find a cure. In the meantime, it's nice to know you are not alone.
Up to what age have you started doing this and what degree of autism? I have a 16 year old with Asperger syndrome. I seriously could not see him doing something like this. We are desperate for help.<
Lynda, You will never know until you try. We have also never set a requirement for surfing; you come, we will try with all our powers to get that little or big surfer in the water. We have been scratched, bitten, pooped on and [had our] hair pulled but it's OK, these days that's normal. Also I might add this is my program and I NEVER thought Isaiah could stand up and ride by HIMSELF.