Autism Ain't Easy
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Spruce Point, Sugarloaf Bring Benefits of Snow Sports to People With Autism

SugarloafTrailMapManaging Editor's Note: Ever taken your child skiing?

CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine (PRWEB) December 16, 2011

Like many Mainers, individuals with autism share a desire to hit the slopes. Unfortunately, balance and motion impairments, joint problems, and difficulty starting and stopping actions can make it difficult for them to participate—and few ski instructors possess the knowledge or skills required to work with this group of students.

Now, Spruce Point, a Spurwink program that specializes in services for those with autism and other developmental disabilities, has teamed with Sugarloaf to make it possible for people with autism to participate in the fun while gaining the significant therapeutic benefits that can accompany skiing, snowboarding, and other snow sports.

“Few sports stimulate the body’s motor system and provide much-needed sensory input the way skiing or snowboarding do,” says Sue Murphy, senior program director at Spruce Point. “The question was how to bring students and instructors together, so children and adults with autism could participate in snow sports lessons.”

Through collaboration with Sugarloaf, Spruce Point will provide autism specialists to help Sugarloaf instructors better understand the person with autism.

“Working together will expand our instructors’ knowledge base and give them the skills required to teach a broader mix of students,” said Tom Butler, who heads the ski school at Sugarloaf. “At the same time, our students with autism will be able to participate as part of a group, learn the skills to ski or snowboard, and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of these great outdoor sports.”

Spruce Point specialists will be on the slopes each Saturday and Sunday, from the beginning of January through the end of March.

The specialists, who remain with the individuals with autism through the entire lesson, will provide Sugarloaf instructors with insights into how people with autism communicate, what their sensory sensitivity is like, and how they relate to others.

Spruce Point specialists will be available to assist in the Mountain Adventure program (children 7-14) and in private lessons. The Spruce Point fee is $25 per hour, plus the cost of the lesson, discounted 20%.

For more information about Spruce Point at Sugarloaf, call: 866-348-1271.

About Spruce Point
Spruce Point is a program that specializes in a variety of services for children and adults on the autism spectrum.

About Spurwink
Spurwink is a nationally accredited nonprofit organization with a 50-year history. We provide a broad range of mental health, educational and residential services for children, adolescents, adults and families. Spurwink offers specialized programs throughout Maine and New England that are grounded in research, outcomes and evidence-based best practices. For more information, visit, or call us at 207-871-1200.




Amy Becker

Skiing is in my DNA, so my son was destined to ski as well, autism be damned. The first time he hit the slopes in 2005, he coasted straight down with confidence. We've been taking a one-week ski vacation every year since (the only time we go skiing). This music video was made on his third trip, in December, 2007:
He now tackles black diamonds and moguls that I don't have the strength or stamina for (I'm on vacation and don't want to work that hard).

We've only ever gone to Snowmass, CO and had the incomparable and priceless Doug Gilstrap as my son's instructor. Doug is available for private lessons through the Aspen Ski Company, which runs the general ski schools and lessons for of all Aspen/Snowmass:
Challenge Aspen in Snowmass (970.923.0578) also has very talented adaptive instructors who are experienced with kids with autism.

It's fantastic to find a "typical" activity our kids can excel at and participate in with the rest of the family.


This is such great information- I also wanted to share that Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid has a wonderful ski department for special needs. My then 4 year old son with autism started out connected to the instructor and now at almost 6 is skiing with us using just the rope harness. He loves it although we are still working on control- as the speed totally talks to his sensory seeking. and he only wants to go faster! I thought skiing would be impossible and totally out of the question but our whole family skis and we are firm believers in making him at least try. I can't tell you the tears we shead as we watched him come down the mountain with his instructor. His crying putting on all the gear was totally worth it and the second day he didnt cry once because he knew those boots, helmet, googles, gloves and extra layers were going to get him going down that hill. The instructors are so patient and experienced- it was a sight my husband and I never though we'd see. Just wanted to share the resource- it's invaluable information when we find places that go above and beyond to treat our kids like everyone else.

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