Sking with Autism – Planet Ski

by Richard Fetherston April 2, 2013

Skiing with autism -

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The Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead is helping people with the condition enjoy time on the snow. Today, Tuesday, is World Autism Awareness Day and PlanetSKI reports on this inspiring programme.

Adam is like any other 11- year old boy – except he has autism. He attends The Tree House school in Muswell Hill in North London where all of the pupils have a diagnosis of autism. He is also now a skier.

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He has now had six ski lessons with Snowbility. “Adam has always loved snow and it’s clear that he loves the feeling of freedom he gets when he is skiing. He is an adventurous child and it is great for him to enjoy new experiences,” said his mother, Emma. “Learning to ski has been good for his self-esteem and confidence. It has really showed us what he is capable of. Skiing has opened up a possibility that wasn’t there before.”

She said that they may now even consider taking a family skiing holiday in the future.
Something that they could never have contemplated before Adam started having his sessions with Snowbility.

The organisation is run by Richard Fetherston, an instructor and duty manager at the Snow Centre. He is the driving force behind Snowbility. It was established in October 2011 with a view to making a difference through snow sports to individuals with additional needs. It has recently been recognised by the National Autistic Society for its impressive results with adults and children.

Richard’s students have a variety of needs such as autism, dyspraxia, deafness or rehabilitation challenges and he and his fellow instructors are achieving dramatic results.
Not just in improving and developing their physical skills, but in their social skills, confidence and ability to communicate.

Snowbility tailor each session specifically for each student, working with their parent, carer or school to understand their individual requirements.
With his kindness, patience, modesty and natural charm it’s easy to see why Richard’s students feel completely comfortable in his care.

Adam and Richard appear to trust each other’s abilities as student and instructor implicitly. But it’s more than that. The rapport that has developed between the two is very obvious.

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Adam in action

Richard clearly takes pride in motivating and inspiring his students to achieve their potential through snow sports. The lessons take place at The Snow Centre alongside regular users of the slope and integrating the students with other skiers and snowboarders can be a real confidence boost.

“We work with the students to understand how they react, reading their non-verbal communication, ability to balance and relate to other users and reward and chart their progress,” said Richard.

Sometimes one on one sessions are combined with, or replaced by, family sessions depending on the needs of the student.
“Seeing a child empowered by their ability on skis to feel parity with their siblings is hugely rewarding,” Richard continued. “As they develop their confidence and enjoyment on the snow so it can help boost their self esteem and ability to relate to other people.”

“My main aim is to establish The Snow Centre as the primary centre of excellence for Snowbility and then encourage other real snow centres around the UK to offer a similar programme. We want to make a positive difference through snow sports to as many people as possible.”

Here at PlanetSKI we wish Snowbility, and all its pupils, every success for the future.

For more information about Snowbility visit www.snowbility.co.uk

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