Ski trip teaches confidence and courage

It’s been three years since I had the budget or the time to take my son snow skiing in Park City, Utah, at the National Ability Center. And it’s expensive to get there from Austin, so this is a pretty big chunk of change just to ski for four days. But, after it’s over, I cannot imagine not having this experience for him. He’s super excited to go and it’s one of the only things that makes him spontaneously talk to people at school.

He’s still enthusiastic when we get home and his teachers and therapists all report that he is more social before and after his ski trip because he has such great memories of the trip and is motivated to talk because of this experience. For someone with autism, it’s a pretty big deal to initiate conversation and this is one of the only topics that seems exciting enough for him to overcome his speech disorder and social anxiety and plunge into having a conversation. Thus, ski trips seem expensive and frivolous when there are therapy bills to pay, but for our family, it gives us a chance to let our son shine in a way that he rarely does–socially.

Each morning as we left our condo to “hit the slopes,” he would gear himself up by saying, “Now I will gather my courage.” So, even though it was scary to him to try skiing, he conquered those fears and followed directions well. Also, he just adores Park City, Utah. When asked how he liked his ski trip, he said, “It’s like we are in a living heaven.” So, I think it’s pretty worth it to him as well.

Trip Tip: If you do go to the National Ability Center, make sure to book your child’s lesson far in advance, as far as you can, because I booked three weeks out and was on the wait list until we got there and almost did not get a lesson. The Center teaches skiing and other winter sports to children and adults with physical and developmental differences. Lessons are very reasonably priced, but it’s just the cost of getting to an expensive resort that will set you back financially. If you live in Utah, lucky you! And a final note, if you think your child will have problems with focus while skiing (pretty dangerous to lose your focus if you’re on skis!), ask the instructor to use the tethers and safety harness. Not every instructor likes to do this because they want to teach independence, but I wanted my son to ski safely more than I wanted him to ski independently. I’ll post a video next post.

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“Traveling with Autism” article in the Austin American-Statesman

I wrote this article a few years ago about the challenges of air travel with my son who has autism. Those of you with kids on the spectrum know that routine is pretty important. Air travel offers very little guarantees on routine. So, with this in mind, I’m going to re-read my own article as I am heading out next week with just my son, leaving my husband and daughter at home. Hoping for travel mercies! And good snow. We’re going back to the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah. More to come next week.