Surfing for autism
Digicel Foundation continues to ride the waves with autistic kids
THE Digicel Foundation, for the fourth consecutive year, on Saturday lent its support to the Jamaica Autism Support Association (JASA) for a fun-filled day of surfing for children with autism and their families. The event took place at the Cable Hut Beach in Bull Bay, St Andrew.
The fourth annual staging of Surfing for Autism was attended by more than 100 children and their relatives. Children were given the opportunity to take surfing lessons with professional surfers from the Jamaica Surfing Association. Those who preferred a more relaxing day 'kicked back' in the wading pool or jumped in the bounce-a-bout.
JASA Co-Founder Kathy Chang said the event is important as it provides the children and their families the opportunity to let loose in a safe and fun environment.
"Our children look forward to this event, which gives them a chance to have some fun in the sun, sea and sand. Our parents also enjoy this event, which allows their children with autism to be themselves without judgement or stress. They also appreciate the fact that this is an inclusive event that their whole family can enjoy and participate in," said Chang.
Kathy also expressed her appreciation to the organisations that supported the event.
"On behalf of the families of JASA, we truly appreciate the support from the Jamaica Surfing Association, the Rotary Club of Trafalgar, New Heights and all the organisations that made the fourth annual Surfing for Autism possible. We especially are grateful to Digicel Foundation for being there for us and for paving the way for other organisations to join in and support us," she remarked.
Inelek Wilmot of the Jamaica Surfing Association explained that for many of the surfers, this event provided their first point of interaction with children who are autistic.
"When teaching surfing, dealing with an autistic child is not so different to dealing with any other child. They are all kids and they really love it," said Wilmot.
For her part, Digicel Foundation CEO Samantha Chantrelle was again delighted that the Foundation was able to be a part of the initiative.
"This initiative is very dear to my heart. Being able to see the children run free along the beach without fear of being judged and the parents being able to sit back and relax, it is truly an amazing day," said Chantrelle.
The activity-driven event at Cable Hut Beach also provides an opportunity for Digicel staff to get involved. This year, 20 staff members volunteered to help set up for the event, organise registration, refreshments and engage in various exercises with the children.
Digicel Foundation volunteer Donna Henry expressed her delight at being able to participate in the event. "We are proud to be a part of this very special event. Having the opportunity to see love in action is a true blessing," she said.
In addition to Surfing for Autism, the Digicel Foundation also supports JASA's annual World Autism Awareness Month Concert, set to take place on April 12.
Autism is the world's fastest growing developmental disorder. It is a lifelong disability with a normal life expectancy. Autistic children show delays or regression in speech, social skills and physical abilities. Approximately 450 children are born with autism in Jamaica each year. Early interventions, such as speech, occupational and behavioural modification and physical therapies, give children a chance at a normal life.