My son has done the equivalent of me doing a few jumps out of a plane. He certainly coped better than I know I would. No tears, no screaming hysterically. I’m writing this now while the pride I’m feeling in my son is still written on my face. I’m also trying hard to forget the dismay I’m feeling that none of the videos I took on the day turned out. The day was about my son and the memories I have and he has, will stay with us.
When I first heard that my son Harry, 7, could go surfing, through the Autism Awareness Surfers Healing program in Sydney, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I wanted to tell everyone. Harry loves the beach, water and the outdoors. Perfect! So operation surfing began. I felt like I was planning a military operation. It involved visits to the beach, practising wearing wristbands, a detailed social story, first then cards, surfing apps, videos, packing lists – planning, planning and more planning! Months in the making for a few hours at the beach. Well, well worth it!
I was secretly hoping Harry would stand and ride a wave, but not expecting it. Everything was going well until Harry didn’t want to step onto the beach. I just took my time and waited until Harry was ready. He was still anxious so we distracted him as best we could before we had to put his wristband on. Then it was time for the life vest and a little bit more waiting.
All of a sudden, the surfers took Harry away and he giggled as they picked him up and carried him into the surf.
I’m sure that is when his fear would have set in. Where am I going? What am I doing? Here he was crashing through big waves on the surfboard and clinging on. I shed a tear as the surfers took him out. Way, way out.
We watched and waited, excited and nervous about what was going to happen.
When Harry came in on the wave, the surfer pulled him up and he stood, I was so amazed, excited and proud. He did it!!!!
They turned around and paddled back out again. They spent a lot of time way out waiting to catch a wave. He rode in, standing, a couple more incredible times.
Afterwards Harry was so relaxed. Instead of immediately stripping off his wet clothes, Harry sat on the beach and put his hand on the knee of a friend of mine he did not know. We sat for a while, enjoyed the beach and then left to walk back to the car. Getting in the car and the drive were uneventful, which was very rare. Not one peep of discomfort. Surfing definitely had a very calming effect on Harry.
It is too easy to place restrictions on ourselves and on our children. I am happy when they are happy and vice versa. If there is something you or your children want to try, get out there and do it! I think in this instance that I can say congratulations to myself, for pulling this off and for the amazing affect it had on Harry. I wish we could go surfing more often; it’s up to me to make it happen.
By Alison, Harry’s mother. February 2017