Surf therapy program makes a splash

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A local charity is changing the lives of children living with Autism Spectrum Disorder through surf therapy.

surf therapy
Surfing the Spectrum founders Aimee Blacker and Tahlia Anderson at Nobbys Beach. Photo: Peter Stoop

Surfing the Spectrum is a surf therapy initiative which aims to build and sustain inclusive communities while showing that the ocean is for everyone.  

It runs surf therapy events for children on the spectrum between the ages of five and 18 and their families.

Founder Aimee Blacker said it was a great opportunity for people with the disorder to experience the water and a day out with their family.

Ms Blacker and co-founder Tahlia Anderson started the organisation because they had seen the benefits of surf therapy for kids in a therapeutic sense and how much they were getting out of it compared to other “traditional approaches”.

“It was something we wanted to be doing more often and these families needed more access to it,” Ms Blacker said.

According to the National Autism Association, children living with autism are drawn to bodies of water because water experiences can have a very therapeutic effect.

Ms Blacker said that, while it depended on the child, benefits included better sleep, regulation and higher activity levels.

Surfing the Spectrum provides an inclusive and fun program that promotes ocean awareness and water safety.

Their volunteers work hard to make everyone comfortable and there is no judgement or pressure on the children and their families.

During larger events, they can cater for up to 150 families and Ms Anderson said they’ve received phenomenal feedback.

“For some families they haven’t even been to the beach before because it is such a daunting thought to take their child there,” Ms Anderson said.

“Some of the other children or siblings in the family [also] may have also never been, so, for them it’s about coming down to the beach and experiencing it as a family knowing they’ll be fully supported.”

The next event will take place on Saturday 18 April at Nobbys Beach, Newcastle.

Registration for families will open at 7pm on Wednesday 25 March.

The group also recruits volunteers all year round and seeks regular donations to continue to provide its valuable service.

Go to surfingthespectrum.org to donate, sign up as a volunteer, or for more information.