Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Autism Surfing

Surfing as a way of bringing children out of their autistic shell.

Unlike the Dore Program, it's not claimed as a cure-all.

For some kids it's a one-shot day at the beach; for others, the beginning of a long-term connection to the ocean and its liberating charms.

Unlike the Dore Program, it's not "scientifically proven", though there are various ideas ranging from the physical to the mental.

Though the notion of surfing as therapy for autism is so novel that no one has studied it, a number of eminent neuroscientists I talk with later are willing to venture a guess as to why it might work. 'We know that motor-skill learning has a broad-ranging impact on the nervous system,' says William Greenough, an expert on brain development at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, where studies of Fragile X are conducted. 'There's increased blood flow to crucial neurons, and the reshaping of abnormal structures in the front brain. But beyond that, surfing may be a vehicle to an emotional breakthrough, a way of reaching under the mask and perhaps connecting to kids like these.' Peter Vanderklish, a neurobiologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who works on the synaptic mechanisms of learning, offers a slightly more personal take. 'I've been surfing for close to 30 years, and my sense is that the sky-and-sea beauty of the sport turns the focus of these kids inside out. They're pulled out of themselves by having to live in the moment, and all their anxieties are pushed aside,' he says.

Unlike the Dore Program which virtually demands a blank cheque, the surfing teacher described in this article does it for free.

1 comment:

  1. Surfing, ponies, dolphins,don't care what you call it, but if it's a bit more fun, it's got to be worth a go [as long as it doesn't break the bank]


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