Health Team

Surfing therapy helping children with autism

Posted August 20, 2008 5:36 p.m. EDT
Updated August 20, 2008 11:56 p.m. EDT

— Children with autism must deal with sensory overload. Their brain disorder impairs social interaction, communication and leads to repetitive behaviors. So, you would expect that riding the waves with professional surfers might be out of the question, but that is not the case.

“Blakey loves the water, loves the beach,” Matt Brennan said of his 8-year-old son.

However, he was nervous about Blakey surfing, since the 8-year-old has autism.

“But once he got out on the board, he absolutely loved it,” Matt Brennan said.

Seven years ago, former champion surfer Izzy Paskowitz began Surfer's Healing day camp because of the effect surfing had on his own autistic son.

“When he was in the water, his bad behavior got a little bit better. ... I know that it balances the kids out. I know it's more than just fun and extreme sport,” Paskowitz said.

That experience repeats itself over and over in children.

“The waves, the waves are big enough and the waves are like 'woosh,'” 8-year-old Wesley Carlton said.

“This is awesome. This is what every mother dreams of who has an autistic child – for their child to be able to do things like this. This is awesome,” Carlette Carlson, Wesley's mother, said.

“As you can see, those lifeguard surfer guys are so cool,” Wesley Carlton said.

Pro surfers volunteer to surf with the children during the camp.

“Helping one person makes you feel so good. Well 150 (children), and it's really – it's a rush,” Paskowitz said. “I ain't smart. I'll never find a cure, but I know today, tomorrow, I can take a bunch of autistic kids out surfing and have a wonderful time."

Surfer's Healing is a non-profit organization that provides the service for autistic children free of charge.