Just found out that today is World Autism Awareness Day. I guess it’s something that really needs promoting and support. I didn’t know there was such a thing as World Autism Awareness Day so that must be a reflection of how little the public know and understand about this condition.
In the last week in August we were very fortunate to be offered a place on the first surf camp to be run in Ireland for Children with Autism; Surf2Heal. Our daughter, who’s eight, had only recently been diagnosed with the condition this was the first opportunity for us to meet with other parents of autistic children as well as an opportunity for Roisin to try surfing.
The camp was being run by Garrettstown Surf School near Kinsale, Co. Cork. Somehow they’d amassed an army of volunteers to help out with the weeks activities from autism professionals, speech and language exports and special needs assistants there was a body of trained and dedicated people to help support us and Rosin during the weeks activities.
I was unsure at the start of the week just how things would go. Each child was booked for an hour and a half session in the sea with two instructors. I know Roisin loves the sea; but I wasn’t sure if she’d rebel at putting a wet suit on or just how she’d manage going out into deeper water. My initial fears were soon allayed. The wet suit was no problem (I think because she was prepared for this) and each child was fitted with a buoyancy aid so she felt safe in the sea.
She had a fantastic time and by the third day was able to stand on the surf board. The smile on her face is a memory I shall carry with me for the rest of my life; it was a beautiful thing to see.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about the activities; but instead I want to thank the people involved:
- Jon and Alayne Hynes who own the Garrettstown Surf School for making this event happen. They must have given so much time over the year to put this together as well as making their premises and staff available for the event.
- Roisin’s instructors in the water, Triona and Keeley. Their enthusiasm and spirit never wavered the entire week despite taking 4 sessions every day and at all times they kept Roisin safe and having fun in the water.
- All the other volunteers who helped bring the week together and make it such a safe and enjoyable week for the children and parents alike.
- Portwest Clothing who supplied the wet suits. Each child came away at the end of the week with their own wet suit.
- MARTINS, the Maritime Training In Safety initiative who supplied a lot of the sponsorship for the event and the National Maritime College Of Ireland through whom the funds were obtained.
- Ernest J Cantillon & Co Solicitors who sponsored specially commissioned surf boards for the event.
Apologies to anyone or any organization that I’ve left out.
Looking forward the week has opened a whole world of possibilities for all of us and I’m determined to build on the experience for Roisin. So clear the beach, here we come……