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-   -   Sailing with special kids (http://www.sailnet.com/forums/cruising-sailing-children/62475-sailing-special-kids.html)

pwillems 03-01-2010 10:32 PM

Sailing with special kids
 
Hi All

Just noticed a post from Bene505 in the thread about finding a liveaboard family for a reality show where Bene505 mentionned he sails with his 4 kids, one of them autistic.

I also have four kids (11, 9, 5 & 3), the 9 yr old has High Functionning Autism. My wife and I dream of a liveaboard life, but quite honestly could not imagine how we would cope with our special boy on board. He is becoming more and more uncomfortable about being away from the security of his home or his friends from the respite centre and most outings these days end up being very stressful for everyone and are therefore kept to a minimum.

My wife and I have pretty much decided that when(/if) we get through this in one piece, once the chidren all have their own lives, and our special boy is setup with support to get through his day to day life, we will have earned the right to be a little selfish and choose to sail around with no fixed address. My problem is that while we are waiting for that day to come, we would like to at least purchase a day sailer and learn the things we will need to know for when our big adventure starts.

Does anyone on this forum have experience involving special needs children in their sailing holidays? Any tips on making the boat feel like a home away from home and therefore a "safe zone"?

Cheers :)

GraemeInCanada 03-01-2010 11:29 PM

Have you ever tried taking him out? It's somewhat possible he may like it which may seem out of the norm because it's out of his daily pattern.

A suggestion from a nurse in that specific area has said maybe to slowly make it part of a pattern that he can get used to. Make it safer for him by introducing him to one thing/event at a time. Time consuming possibly but with perseverance and patience it may work out just fine.

So I'm not speaking from personal experience but I do happen to have somebody close to me who has been in that area for the last 14 years, perhaps that advice can assist :)

sailor50 03-01-2010 11:30 PM

Try ABC network - they do the home remodels for really worthy families. The Extreme Makeover may also do a boat for your son and the charities you are involved with.

pwillems 03-02-2010 01:56 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by GraemeInCanada (Post 575762)
Have you ever tried taking him out? It's somewhat possible he may like it which may seem out of the norm because it's out of his daily pattern.

No, never taken him out. He has been on power boats, driven them sitting on my knees, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. ( What young boy wouldn't enjoy having his hand on the throttle stick of a 250hp outboard :laugher ). The problem is that was several years ago and he is unfortunately becoming less and less comfortable in leaving the safety of his house and the things he knows now days. It's not that he doesn't enjoy it, he just gets very anxious about anything that is away from a house he is comfortable in. Even a suggested trip to the beach (which he loves) generally ends up in screaming fits due to the anxiety even though he wants nothing more than to go there.

I think the only way around this will be to very gradually add the boat onto his list of safe zones. I have thought about ensuring he has his own bunk that doesn't get shared with anyone else as well as at least a drawer that is his to store whatever he wants and doesn't get touched by anyone else. As our first sailing vessel will most likely be a trailer sailer, I guess we could organize spending a few nights camping in it parked in the driveway.

Quote:

Originally Posted by sailor50 (Post 575763)
Try ABC network - they do the home remodels for really worthy families. The Extreme Makeover may also do a boat for your son and the charities you are involved with.

Nice idea. Probably not for us though as

a) We don't have a boat to remodel yet
b) He doesn't need a special environment, he just needs to literally feel "at home"

He's as smart as you and I and understands danger very well. Wearing a PFD and a harness will not be an issue.

JohnRPollard 03-02-2010 07:57 AM

My heart goes out to you. That is a tall task you've been handed. But I've noticed that only those who are capable seem to get the assignment. I'll bet you and your wife make a remarkable couple.

I would also like to applaud your efforts to add some sailing into your family's lifestyle. Maybe your son will take to it in unexpected ways? It can't hurt to try.

I have no first hand experience with autistic children. So my suggestions may not be appropriate. But it occurs to me that, given your son's preference to remain home in his secure environment, maybe you could begin introducing sailing to him through videos and movies about sailing? Or books and magazines? This might familiarize him a bit and help him get his head around the idea of someday giving it a try.

A trailerable daysailer sounds like a good choice for you right now. Your idea of parking it in the driveway and letting him climb/play on it is a good one too. And the advantage of this approach is you and your wife could take turns bringing the other kids out for a jaunt even if your autistic son can't always come along. This might give each of you a much needed/deserved break. Sailing is a lot of things to a lot of people, but one common theme is that most find it very rejuvenating.

Hopefully Brad (Bene505) and others will chime in with other suggestions.

All the best to you.

Tspringer 03-11-2010 01:24 PM

My wife and I along with our high functioning autistic son who is 11 and our daughter who is 7 are cruising full time. Our blog is here:

I Hate This Computer | S/V Lillie Mae... Underway!

Our #1 goal at this point is to find other kid boats as quickly as we can. Its not easy.


Terry

bljones 03-11-2010 02:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pwillems (Post 575794)

I think the only way around this will be to very gradually add the boat onto his list of safe zones. I have thought about ensuring he has his own bunk that doesn't get shared with anyone else as well as at least a drawer that is his to store whatever he wants and doesn't get touched by anyone else. As our first sailing vessel will most likely be a trailer sailer, I guess we could organize spending a few nights camping in it parked in the driveway.



Brilliant! A Hartley or similar may be exactly the thing.

CalebD 03-11-2010 04:13 PM

Another member here (Mr. Wuffles) sails with his autistic brother. As I recall the brother really enjoys being on their Hobi among other boats.
Good luck in your quest.

arborman 04-06-2010 01:25 AM

I work with people with developmental issues, and one of them has pretty severe autism. I've taken him out for day sails in my Crown 28 and he has enjoyed it immensely - but I don't do anything like that without another staff member who could handle him if things get out of control.

I'd say make it gradual - add it to his routine. Don't go out for a sail until he's been to the boat with you 10 times, and then just go out for an hour. Figure out things he can do to be a part of things - totally minor things can be huge and help to deal with anxiety (i.e. I always put the mainsail cover away).

In many ways, the careful order and simplicity of a well-maintained sailboat can be a fantastic place for a person who struggles with complexity and change in the way a person with autism can. I'm not autistic, but my boat is much more orderly and coordinated than any other aspect of our lives.

If you manage it carefully, you might well be able to give him an amazing gift. But be careful.


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