Autism Skateboard Programme

It takes a brave child to risk having a go at something they may not be good at, but the results can be surprising.  

 "As long as the kids persist, they will succeed," said OnBoard Skate chief executive Steve Hodges, who has started classes for children with autism. 

In that environment, skateboarding was an activity where children might fail but not be considered failures, he said.

The skating programme, designed to help children on the autism spectrum, has been well received by parents in Manawatū. 

Billy Pratt has a skate at an event for children with autism, assisted by Rian MacDonald.
MURRAY WILSON/STUFF

Billy Pratt has a skate at an event for children with autism, assisted by Rian MacDonald.

 

 

"One mum had two older kids [and] she said they were keen but the closer we got they were more and more reluctant to come," Hodges said.

"But once they got there her son was out there, he was pushing, he was riding.

"Her daughter, who has balance issues ... getting on a skateboard was huge, but she was on there and she was skating.

"Her mum was almost in tears, seeing her kids doing something she never thought could happen." 

The programme was offered for the first time in Palmerston North on Sunday at the Central Energy Trust Arena. 

Hodges said he had no idea what to expect when he offered the programme, but it was so popular he had to split it up between two days. 

There were nine children there on Sunday and Hodges said his team kept numbers low so they could offer one-on-one teaching. 

Neko Blythe, 7, has a skate, assisted by James Tuckey, at an event for children with autism.
MURRAY WILSON/STUFF

Neko Blythe, 7, has a skate, assisted by James Tuckey, at an event for children with autism.

"It's more personal in the sense we allocate a peer mentor to the child for the session, someone that works with them throughout the day.

"Traditionally, we would have 15 to 20 kids and two to three staff there and they would alternate between kids." 

He said children on the autism spectrum could get frustrated in group sports and might worry about not being as good as the other kids and being judged for that, so might not try.

By the end of the session, he said most of the children could push and ride by themselves. 

"The ultimate goal is to get them into the skate park, so we can get them into the public space." 

Hodges said this was so they felt comfortable skating around other kids.

Hodges said there was KiwiSport funding for the programme and he hoped to hold the classes on a more regular basis.

This article was first Published in the Manawatu Times on Oct 29th, 2018