Skateboarders in North Carolina celebrated the finale of the 3rd annual world autism awareness weekend with a free clinic aimed at providing outreach and raising autism awareness. Our Amy Elliott talked to families who say it’s an event their children look forward to each year.
NORTH CAROLINA -- "What his buddy doing now is getting him started. As Jay gains balance and confidence, he'll let him go."
Richard Poole is one of several parents gathered for "a. Skate" a free skateboarding clinic to allow children on all points of the autism spectrum learn to skateboard.
Poole said, “A skate allows him to get out and engage other people and be involved in healthy, fun exercise."
John Pike, who also organizes a surfing camp for children with autism, said skateboarding and surfing have similar benefits.
Pike, the NC Surfers Healing Camp Director said, “It's sensory friendly. You know the noise and stuff kinda scares some kids, but once they get on the board and feel the motion, it is similar to riding a wave and they basically get a calming, sensory fulfillment from that."
Parents say the experience teaches their children more than just the skill of skating.
Nikki McCall, organizer said, “Each time they come out here and skate with one of our skaters, they are building confidence. So when they go back to school or back to their friends. Friendship is really hard to come by right now, at least for my son it is. He gets picked on constantly and this is just a confidence builder for him. "
And after talking to some of the skaters, it seems the clinic is working its magic.
Gianni Pike, an 8-year-old skater said, “I started two years ago and I kept practicing a lot and um, I got good at it.”
Jaden Hoelen, a 10-year-old skater said, “Kinda scared but now really cool, I used to be really scared of umm, skateboarding because I thought I would get hurt really bad, but then, um, I found out it was really fun when you have somebody on your side."
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said an estimated one million children have some form of Autism spectrum disorder, nationwide.