We moved to Selah, Washington in late 2007, about a year before Jack was diagnosed with autism. It was a small town, so I was surprised to see they already had a skatepark – behind the high school near the mainstream sports fields. Once in awhile I would drive by and think about how in a couple of years Jack would be using it. I gave more thought to whether or not I would insist he wear a helmet skateboarding than I did to whether or not circumcised him as a baby.
After he was diagnosed my heart would drop when I drove by because he would probably never be able to skate or do any other sport. Not because he wouldn’t have the physical potential, but because he wouldn’t have the social skills. At that time I couldn’t even let go of his hand for a minute at the grocery store. I know my husband has dealt with similar disappointments about things like little league and Boy Scouts.
Jack really struggles with some sensory issues which give him an impulse to bang his head against the wall to the point where he actually breaks sheetrock and has formed a permanent callous on his forehead. He tends to jump a lot and be generally rambunctious, beyond the normal boy kind. He also seems to like to move furniture and heavy objects around for no clear reason. He tried to move the dining room table to the basement once. The way I understand it he’s seeking out the impact on his joints… or something. I had wondered if skateboarding would get some of that out his system, and I finally googled “autism + skateboarding” a few weeks ago.
I don’t know about the sensory stuff, but I found out skateboarding is being used therapeutically to help autistic kids socially. It’s the kind of sport where conformity has no value and they can sort of do their own thing with other people. It goes to “parallel play”.
The best resource I’ve found is A.skate (<— I think you’ll “like” their Facebook page), and I’ve been driving everyone nuts about it ever since. It was started by a mom, Crys Worley, after seeing how much skateboarding helped her son. They travel the country, largely out of pocket, and hold skateboarding clinics for kids with autism to try it out. They provide all the gear for the clinic, and if a child wants to continue they offer grants to pay for their own gear. It’s also cool that the funds are given to a local skate shop, as opposed to a discount retailer, like store credit, so they’re supporting the industry.
And check it out, Ben Harper has signed a limited number of these prints to raise money for a.skate. Ironically, this album played a huge part of getting me through my most recent dark period spent worrying about how autism was affecting both of my kids.