On August 18th 2014, my son Johnny had an amazing opportunity along with a whole bunch of other Autistic children to go out on the waves and try surfing with a professional surfer. He had tried paddle boarding last summer when Surfers Healing came to our home city last year which was a nice gentle beginning to long boarding. But anyone who knows my son really well knows he loves water and loves anything that pumps his adrenaline so combining the two equaled awesome for Johnny.
Every summer we try to go on a road trip and escape to the beach for a week or two to combine R&R and give Johnny the sensory input he craves of sand and water. We were staying near Virginia Beach last summer and he would try to play in the waves with a boogie board but the waves would knock him down and he was having trouble coordinating his body to stay on the board and getting back on. “The waves keep knocking me down Mommy!” He’d watch the other kids riding their little boards and the surfers doing their thing and he wanted to do it so bad. When we got back home, Surfers Healing was visiting our home town and were doing a paddle boarding event on the lake for children with Autism that Johnny was able to get a spot in. It was a calm and blissful introduction to being on a long board out on the water. “I want to go our again Mommy to ride the waves Mommy.” Its hard trying to explain to a young child why a gigantic lake that looks like an ocean because you can’t see the other side is not the ocean and will never make big waves.
So this year we decided that we would try to get Johnny a spot in one of the Surfers Healing “one perfect day” free surf camps for Autistic children that happen on the west and east coast every year. It is not easy because its very popular but it so worth it. “Izzy” Paskowitz and his wife Danielle founded Surfers Healing after discovering the therapeutics effects of being out on the water with their own Autistic son Isaiah. It is truly amazing to watch so many families step out onto the sand and watch their children being led out into the water and being placed on a surf board, some for the first time. Everyone is smiling, trying to hold back tears of joy as they see their children do something so very cool and exciting. In that one moment even though as parents and grandparents we all have a child on the spectrum in the water, we are also just loved ones standing and watching our child do something fun just like any other parent or grandparent does at any other event. For a lot of folks on that beach they don’t get the opportunity to see their child do something just for fun. Instead they go and watch their children at endless speech therapy appointment, occupational therapy appointment, social skills groups, ABA therapy appointments and special preschools. So on this “perfect day”, on this one perfect morning by the ocean, we could watch our children engaging in what the “Izzy” proudly refers to as “extreme” special ed and ride some waves.
When I look at the pictures Johnny’s Daddy took as we raced back and forth along the beach trying to capture our son’s moments, I can see on his little face the joy in his heart at just getting to be a little boy learning to surf. Johnny got to have his “one perfect day” and for him its the best birthday present ever because he turned 7 just 2 days before. The other fringe benefit is Johnny has been taking lots of swimming lessons because he wants to learn to swim like Daddy really bad. After surfing and having the time of his life on the waves he spent the rest of his time in Wrightsville Beach everyday in the ocean learning to swim and learning to handle the waves. He doesn’t get knocked down anymore and laughs. Well…..expect for one that turned him upside down but after a little fright to himself he still wanted to go back in.
Thank you Izzy and Danielle Paskowitz for providing the opportunity for my son. Psst….I will let you in on his secret. This “one perfect day” lit a spark inside of him and now he says “I want to be a surfer Mommy. I want to ride the big waves.”
*A special thank you for Johnny’s professional surfer Kumu for putting this smile on our son’s face:)
Wrightsville Beach North Carolina August 18 2014
*picture credit Johnny’s Daddy (you know who are sweetie *wink*)
To read more about Surfers Healing http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20140818/ARTICLES/140819689?tc=ar