Autism-Friendly Winter Activities

ImageThis morning, looking out my office window, I’m amazed at the beauty and power of the weather.  It’s blustery, cold and snowy – a typical Erie winter day. Yet, just yesterday I sat here, looking out the same window watching the rain soak the grass knowing it was 60 degrees outside. Yesterday I thought of spring, today I’m reminded that winter is still with us. So, as the weekend approaches and we brace for snow, I’m thinking about activities Ryan and I might enjoy.

Ryan started downhill skiing when he was seven years old.  I was a beginner at best, but I had a friend who was willing to ski with us and teach him how to ski. Three years later, my friend moved on and Ryan had surpassed me, graduating to the intermediate and black diamond hills. At that point I suggested that we should consider an alternate winter sport, and that’s when snowshoeing began. It’s a great, inexpensive way to spend a few hours with your child. We would go to the Peninsula or Asbury Woods and enjoy nature as we walked the trails. However, snowshoeing didn’t have the excitement of barreling downhill, so we quickly moved on to another sport.  Next came cross country skiing, which was also affordable and could be done anywhere.

Winter ended, and with milder temperatures the next few years, our skis didn’t see much action. As the years flew by, Ryan continued to grow and the skis were too short for him. Fortunately, rentals can be obtained at Prequel Isle, so when we had our first snow this year we spent a quiet afternoon skiing the trails.  Ryan really enjoys the outdoors, and this is a great option as an activity during the Erie winter.

Just as I’m planning the weekend and thinking of past winter activities, I found an article about the Extreme Sports Camp in Aspen, CO.   Recently, they were designated by the Professional Ski Instructors of America as the first autism-specific ski program in the country.  Ski instructors receive more than 40 hours of autism training including learning approaches, behavior and communication strategies, ABA tools and social skills.  Since 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with ASD, it’s great to see that Extreme Sports Camp is taking a leadership role to allow children with autism to experience the everyday fun of skiing. I’m pleased that this door has been opened for children with autism. It would be great to see regional ski resorts follow their lead. Outdoor sports are a fun real world avenue to health and wellness for everyone.

Saturday, Ryan and I plan to take the skis off the rack, bundle up and take to the paths of Prequel Isle. If you have a favorite winter activity, I’d love to hear about it!  Stay warm!

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2 Responses to Autism-Friendly Winter Activities

  1. Mary Beth Wachter says:

    Maureen, Wonderful outdoor activity ideas. I have heard that Holiday Valley has an excellent adaptive ski program. Mary Beth

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