By: Ashley Baccante
Surfing is a way of life for most people who grow up near the coast, and for many of those surfing lovers they pass their passion on to their children. Israel Paskowitz, a surfing lover, passed his love of surfing onto his son, however, for his son it became a form of therapy.
The founders of Surfers Healing, Israel and Danielle Paskowitz have a son with autism. Isaiah, was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Because of his disorder he often suffered from sensory overload, which means that simple sensations overwhelmed him. With little to no information available for them, Israel and his wife, Danielle were not sure what to do about their sons disorder. Disclosing his struggles with his son and his behavior, he recalls one day when his son’s behavior seemed unbearable. Israel put his son at the front of his board and paddled out, his son seemed to enjoy surfing and feel at ease. Israel states on Unwinding Autism, “This was one way I could deal with his behavior, it was not a cure all, but I know in the water he felt better, he was comfortable, he was weightless, he was surrounded by the ocean and he felt better”. The true life experience led him to share his story and would later blossom into a non-profit organization which travels around the countries coast lines to host day camps at the beach for other autistic children and their families. These beach day camps turned into a non-profit organization that is now well known around the country.
Taking this disorder head on, Surfers Healing, stands as a national organization, and their goal is “to enrich the lives of people living with autism by exposing them to the unique experience of surfing”. They are trying to help these children one wave at a time, and their efforts have reached across the nation. Surfers Healing is unique in that it is a therapy for the children. “I am the furthest thing from an expert… I have an infinite amount of street experience with my own son, who is 22 years old,” Israel Paskowitz says on Unwinding Autism. However, he tries to create a perfect day for the families that attend the camps. These camps do not charge their surfers. Israel and Danielle Paskowitz, allow the children to do a normal activity on the coast. How do they do it? Volunteers and surfing experts have their ‘surfers in training’ lay on the board and give them an experience of a lifetime as they ride to the shore on a wave. The children feel free and weightless as they glide to shore- a feeling they will never forget.
Autism is a disorder that has become more prominent in the last 40 years; it now affects about 1 in 88 children. There is a lot of research going on to help these children and provide them with a better future. Organizations such as Autism Speaks, funds research for early detection and awareness. In most cases, autism can be detected in young children as early as age two. Getting children as early as one regularly screened can help determine if a child is at risk for autism. Some warning signs include: No joyful expressions by six months, No back and forth sharing of sounds, smiles and facial expressions by nine months, no babbling by twelve month and no words by sixteen months are a few signs to look for. Of course, asking your pediatrician and vocalizing potential concerns is also helpful.