In this success story, we would like to share our incredible journey working with H, a young boy diagnosed with autism. We received a special inquiry from H's mum, who was eager to find a new activity for her son. Although H was already quite active with his mum, participating in yoga and swimming, we were thrilled to introduce him to stand-up paddleboarding and see how this could enhance his physical activity and wellbeing.

Before introducing H to stand-up paddleboarding, we had a conversation with his mum to identify any potential triggers or risks. It was crucial for us to find a time of day that would be less crowded and quieter, as H was known to be sensitive to loud noises and large crowds. Additionally, we took into consideration that H's autism was on the more severe side, which meant that there could be communication barriers. Therefore, we made sure to provide short and concise instructions that H could easily understand. By taking these precautions, we aimed to create a safe and comfortable environment for H to explore the ocean and connect with stand-up paddleboarding.

I vividly recall feeling quite nervous leading up to our first session with H. Having never worked with someone with such a high level of autism before, my primary concern was to make sure that H had the best possible experience. However, I reminded myself that this was an opportunity to learn and grow as an instructor, and I trusted in my abilities. Upon meeting H for the first time, my nerves dissipated quickly. He was a joyful and enthusiastic young boy who was eager to get started and couldn't wait to dive in. His excitement was contagious, and I knew that we were in for an incredible experience.

As we began our session, I had two ideas in mind on how to structure the experience. I could either provide a typical lesson with simplified instructions as a starting point, or we could double up on one board and embark on an adventure together. Ultimately, I decided to go with the latter. It became clear to me early on that our focus would be on providing H with access to the ocean and getting him on a board in the water. At this point, I didn't want to focus too much on technique or skills, as it didn't seem practical.

H was very lively and energetic, as his mother had described. I was curious to see how he would respond to the water. However, I could not have anticipated what would happen next.

Our adventure began with H seated at the front of the board, pointing in the direction of travel while I followed his lead. He was thrilled to spot seaweed floating in the water and was eager to grab as much as he could. It was apparent that H was a tactile learner and enjoyed exploring new textures. However, after about 10-15 minutes on the water, H's demeanour shifted. What started out as an energetic and lively experience transformed into a quiet, calm, and serene one. H eventually laid chest down on the board with his hands dangling and drifting through the water. He appeared so relaxed that I thought he was going to fall asleep. I was moved by the experience, knowing how the power of blue mind can impact the human brain. However, I did not expect it to have such a profound effect on H.

His mum was amazed and overjoyed to see her son so happy and relaxed, which made the experience all the more rewarding.

Since H's initial visit, he has returned twice, and his mum has begun her own paddleboarding journey with the goal of being able to support H on the water herself. This would make it more financially and functionally accessible for them. We have discussed this with H's mum and are working to support her in building her skills and confidence as a paddler.

A word from H's mum:

"Very inclusive for disabilities! I took my autistic son for a 121 session and right from the booking process it was obvious they understood his needs. They gave me absolute confidence and I’d highly recommend booking with them. First activity where I had zero parental anxiety. Thank you for being so amazing!"

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