What does Surfers Healing Australia mean to your family?
From the Bollards:
Sammy has autism, the type of autism that people don’t like to talk about. The type of autism that has a 16 year old who has never spoken, who still wears nappies and the type of autism that makes it difficult for our family to leave our home, and worst of all the type of autism that means Sammy is sometimes so afraid he hurts us and worse still he hurts himself.
Sammy has very few interests and as a family we couldn’t do the things that other families could. We didn’t go to the park, we couldn’t go to the movies we couldn’t go to the shops but what we could do was go to the beach.
The beach was our saving grace, Sammy loved the sand, the sun and most of all he loved the water. He would spend hours in the ocean just rolling in the waves, like he was finally home, finally in the place that made him feel safe.
After years of therapy he still couldn’t hold a fork or use the toilet but he could swim. It was like he trusted the water, he could hear the waves, he duck dived under the white wash and he smiled, pure joy.
It just made sense to us that Surfers Healing would be Sam’s idea of heaven and we weren’t wrong. Sammy loved his first experience on the board he stood up and caught waves and smiled like we hadn’t seen before. I couldn’t believe that Sammy was here at Surfers Healing, but it wasn’t just the feeling of inclusion that I felt for our boy it was the inclusion and acceptance that was everywhere. Children who would never win that typical trophy or ribbon at the athletics carnival were overwhelmed with their achievements, pure pride. Parents who never in their wildest dreams believed that their babes could achieve something so cool, so skilled, so Neuro-typical. Again I sobbed and sobbed those tears of joy.
The next year we heard that Izzy was coming back we just couldn’t believe how blessed we were. We got to the beach early, took Sammy for a swim and got settled in for the day.
Big mistake…. Sammy just wanted to be in the water doing his own thing and when we took him out the tantrum was real. Head hitting, biting and screaming, he was never going to surf, I was devastated. Losing hope we just felt that he wasn’t going to surf today, we were so used to disappointment. When Izzy came down the beach and scooped up our boy, popped him on the front of his board and paddled and paddled and paddled. Sammy and Izzy were just a speck on the horizon, in the water as one together, the waves, the board and the bond of autism. They were out there for at least 40 mins and when they returned Sammy was calm and still. Izzy said it took some time but eventually he succumbed to the water and may have even slept momentarily on the board.
Sammy has surfed every year for the last four years thanks to Autism Awareness Australia and Surfers Healing, and every year I kiss Nicole and Izzy and thank them for making dreams come true for a family that lives so often in unpredictability.
From the Raptis’:
My literary self struggles to convey the depth of pleasure and sheer thrill this day brings us. This is our “best day ever”, our Christmas, our birthdays, all rolled into one.
We have two boys, both who are on the Autism Spectrum but they are like chalk and cheese. When given the opportunity for them to experience surfing we jumped on the bandwagon full force. Imagine if the boys could experience half of the calm it brings to us. To see their bodies relax, to watch the stillness take over, followed by a rush of pure adrenalin and joy.
They know as soon as they see the flags lined up on the beach they’re in for the time of their lives. As we skip, jump and hop our way from the car park to the beach I can feel the excitement build in their little bodies. James starts his surfing chant, “I go surfing, I go surfing!” Willy gets into sensory heaven letting fistfuls of sand run through his fingers. We line up at registration, suddenly sand flies through the air; Willy has thrown sand all over the lovely ladies in the tent. Immediate apologies were met with, smiles, acceptance. It’s so refreshing to not have to retreat, go back into the shadows and hide. These people get us, and they don’t care they got a little bit of sand on them. They see the bigger picture. We’re among friends, we’re safe, and we’re home.
It’s a surreal feeling watching your babies paddle off into the surf and seeing the elation on their faces as they catch a wave.
James always clambers back on the board not wanting it to end; he’d stay there all day if he could and happily paddle to New Zealand.
Willy, who before diagnosis we thought would take the sophisticated name Will but who fits Willy so much better with his silliness and constant shenanigans, putting his trust in someone other than us and stepping out of his comfort zone.
The hours/months/years we’ve spent in therapy does not compare to this experience.
Needless to say we both end up in a flood of tears unable to express the gratitude to Izzy, Autism Awareness Australia and Surfers Healing. Blubbering away to each other, and anyone and everyone else on the beach. I love telling people what the boys are doing and who these special little boys are. If I can make it easier for another parent going through diagnosis and acceptance then that’s a good day. I have encouraged all of our extended Autism family to join this wondrous day, and as a group we now share the experience of seeing all our kids shine, we cheer as they each ride in and give multiple high fives as they receive their medals. Autism Awareness Australia and Surfers Healing has allowed us to feel part of a community. A community who accepts and loves us for who we are!
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts and souls for giving us this magical family experience. We love you Autism Awareness Australia and Surfers Healing xxxx