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Skiing and Aspergers

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Oldish here, can anyone help?

I have a 13 year old son who has Aspergers and tackles life in his very own particular way. I tried getting  him on skis from about the age of three. Absolutely refused, but persevere we did. A light bulb switched on in his brain at age 8 and a half and with no formal instruction (he wouldn't do instruction) he is now an awesome skier and loves it.

The problem is that he has way surpassed his oldish Mum who is a fast skier, but getting on and therefore not physically able to keep up and has two dodgy knees.

Second difficulty he has switched to freestyle skiing, way out of my league and inclination. He gets utterly frustrated as he wants to walk before he can run and feels he is absolutely rubbish because he should be able to do it immediately, in fact he he has taught himself well by watching others and is learning naturally how to do the basics, switches, 180's, small kickers. boxes etc. I can not seem to get through to him that it will take time, patience and sticking at simple problems first. He won't give up, but the anxiety builds along with the frustration and there so many fireworks he is often very difficult to be around.

He has so much potential and is very talented in many areas but just doesn't see it, such a perfectionist to the point where it gets in the way of moving forward, instead is so hard on himself. What I want to find is somewhere for him to learn, be away from Mum and Dad, where he would receive instruction from an instructor who could handle and be empathetic towards his learning style. He is also lonely and needs a buddy to ski with. Not a lot of fun with your oldish parents. He needs to meet lads of his own age doing freestyle skiing, he does not socialise easily as he thinks people don't like him typical, Aspergers. I know this is a big ask but does any one have any ideas?

post #2 of 15
Im working on a ski camp curriculum for special needs teens, but not aware of an existing program. PM if you'd like to compare notes and brainstorm.
post #3 of 15

What country are you looking to find a program in? It appears you're in the UK, so I'm wondering where you frequent to ski. In the US, PSIA has an adaptive curriculum. Most people think of adaptive as skiing for people with physical disabilities. However, it also encompasses people with cognitive issues such as spectrum disorders.

 

If you are skiing in the US, contact areas about adaptive programs.

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 

I live in the UK, but tend to ski in France / Austria. Although my son has Aspergers he is very intelligent and able, I am not sure being in a special needs group would be the way forward he is very much in that 'grey' area, Not quite neuro-typical but almost. Oldish
 

post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldish View Post

I live in the UK, but tend to ski in France / Austria. Although my son has Aspergers he is very intelligent and able, I am not sure being in a special needs group would be the way forward he is very much in that 'grey' area, Not quite neuro-typical but almost. Oldish
 

 

I work with kids with various social, developmental, and behavioral issues, Including having spent last year working one-on-one with a student with Aspergers, so I'm familiar with the disorder.

 

If you're looking for socialization, the only way to really do that effectively is through a seasonal program. Same instructor(s), same group of kids every week. If you don't ski enough for that, you're looking at a camp situation. If you don't want any kind of specialized program, any freestyle camp will do.

post #6 of 15

Disclaimer: Not a psychologist, but I do have a background in psychology and learning theory. I may also have a touch of the aspie's, so can lend some insight as an adult. For folks who want a quick primer on autism spectrum disorders, here's an interesting TED talk. You can actually see how the presenter, who's autistic to some degree, thinks and acts differently from neurotypical people. (Aspergers is considered part of the autism spectrum, which is why Grandin's ted talk is relevant.)

 

Most challenges faced by people with aspergers relate to their ability to interact socially. Is your son aware that he has aspergers? It's probably tough for him as he at least knows something's "not right" (within the confines of a neurotypical society), and he shouldn't feel bad about himself for his condition. I'll assume your son's already getting some coaching on how to develop and enhance his social skills (assessing and understanding another person's emotional state, conversation skills, small talk, relationship building, etc).

 

Ski school is a great place to practice and potentially make new friends. After all, he has something in common with the folks at a ski school--he loves to ski! And if he isn't able to establish relationships in the course of a session, that's OK - it's just a day program anyway. There's always next week. 

 

From a skiing skills perspective, one of your son's strengths is likely his ability to hyper focus. You've probably noticed he succeeds in a lot of his personal interests. He'll go far in skiing. And he'll likely get a lot out of lessons, as long as the instructor/coach understands that your son thrives on having a focus for each run. Good coaches will give participants something to focus on, especially if asked. 

 

From a broader "life skills" perspective, a good instructor will help your son improve his self-talk. It sounds like your son might have some negative cues in his head, like "I suck at turning" or "I'm really having a hard time pivoting my skis frown.gif". A good instructor will help him to rephrase cues to improve success, and ideally will stress concepts like visualization and positive self-talk. These same skills will work for him in the real world too.

 

Your son would probably get a lot more out of a positive instructor than out of a gruff, curt "mountain man" type. I would want to ensure your son's treated the same way as all the other kids--but with certain tweaks to improve his development and to give him a fun mountain experience. But yeah--ski school could be great for him. 

post #7 of 15

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Great advice from Metaphor.

post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 

Many thanks for your excellent comments, you really hit the nail on the head regarding the negative thought pattern and how this needs to be switched to positive affirmation but his Aspergers means my son is very single minded, straight down the line, black and white with a seemingly unshakeable thought pattern! He has built up this perception that he he doesn't measure up to others, is rubbish, the worst at everything, etc. The reality is the opposite, he just cannot see it. You are also right the gruff,machismo type of teacher would be detrimental as well. Empathetic and infinitely patient with a good sense of humour is the way forward, where do you find such a ski free style ski teacher? Oldish
 

post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by freeski919 View Post

 

I work with kids with various social, developmental, and behavioral issues, Including having spent last year working one-on-one with a student with Aspergers, so I'm familiar with the disorder.

 

If you're looking for socialization, the only way to really do that effectively is through a seasonal program. Same instructor(s), same group of kids every week. If you don't ski enough for that, you're looking at a camp situation. If you don't want any kind of specialized program, any freestyle camp will do.

In a similar vein, looking closer to home, have you thought about skateparks or bikeparks as similar outlets to skiing, that would be available when you're not on holiday?  I'd say a higher than average number of skaters and bmx park riders have Asperger's symptoms, and in their own way these parks can be great, supportive environments. 

post #10 of 15

Hi Oldish, 

 

It's worth getting in touch with the ski school director/supervisor to get help finding a good match for your son. Specifically I'd outline that he does have aspergers, that he'll need help building positive self-talk, visualization, team-building, etc, that he needs specific direction or focus in practice, that he needs positive feedback during development. Plus whatever specific area of focus your son wants (eg park/pipe). It's also worth telling the instructor all the above directly, in case they haven't worked with anyone with Aspergers, and that if your son is blunt/direct (as are many people with aspergers), it's not with the intent of being mean/rude--from his perspective he's being practical.

 

In theory all the above should be a part of every instructor's best practices. The reality is that some coaches are better at these things than others. That said, there are lots of instructors with a nurturing "schoolteacher-mom" personality. Maybe someone from Europe on EpicSki can recommend a good match.

 

CTKook's idea is great too (though concrete makes for a more firm landing than snow...). Inline skating provides phenomenal cross-training for skiing and is pretty accessible; I'd recommend taking coaching lessons from an IISA level 3 instructor. My only other thought is that some skate parks, at least in Canada, can be a bit turf-y and you really need to show up with at least two people to avoid getting bullied. (Especially if inline skating.) But many skate parks are totally fine. And there are some little tricks to warm skaters up; just by saying "hey, that was a nice grab", that little bad-dude skater is now in your little pocket ;)

 

Good luck! 

post #11 of 15

I too am a fan of inline skating as cross training (and have been writing about the benefits for skiing on a skate blog). ICP took over IISA certification, there are two level 3 instructors active in UK who are highly professional as teachers as well as skaters, they teach mainly in London though would no doubt travel wherever there is sufficient demand.  

 

Socializing may be a problem, but this is not ski specific. The strong sense of community in the skating world in London at any rate I think does make life easier for people who come across as unconventional. This is maybe tougher in skiing, because of the potentially high cost means most British young people will not be able to spend a lot of time skiing (not enough time to build community and friendships) unless you can move to a ski area.  For developing ski talent, I would think that requires finding a way to spend a lot of time in a ski region, with constant access to pistes, and with other youngsters around who are seriously good, and identifying the right teacher there. 

 

At the end of the day people with Aspergers find their won own interests, and their own friends, there is only so much you can do to guide that. But you may be able to facilitate.

 

Incidentally in ski regions there are race training camps and courses for young people. They would be out of reach for most British youngsters, but given the focus which Aspergers people enjoy, maybe your son would be attracted to something really challenging of that kind.

post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 

Many thanks for all advice so far for my Aspergers son's  journey into freestyle skiing. He has just completed his first private lesson at the Chill factore indoor ski slope near Manchester. A good success, as previously he has refused lessons of any kind. Next step which is happening as we speak, a second lesson but this time in a group situation with 6 others, so we will see how that goes. Even for him to agree to join a group lesson with people he doesn't know is a huge and positive step. I really hope it has gone well! Especially as we have to drive 2 hours to get to Manchester 2 hours back after school!

 

What exercise would you advocate to help supplement freestyle skiing? He already does a fair bit of mountain biking and the odd bit of downhill biking. The BMX track is too far away to go on a regular basis. I have tried skate parks with his scooter/flowboard but he finds the other kids too intimidating.

 

He is such a perfectionist and so easily gets frustrated and angry with himself or his equipment. Any ideas on how to keep him calm and distract his giving up destructive mindset when things are not going right for him?

Thanks to all

 

Oldish

post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldish View Post

Many thanks for all advice so far for my Aspergers son's  journey into freestyle skiing. He has just completed his first private lesson at the Chill factore indoor ski slope near Manchester. A good success, as previously he has refused lessons of any kind. Next step which is happening as we speak, a second lesson but this time in a group situation with 6 others, so we will see how that goes. Even for him to agree to join a group lesson with people he doesn't know is a huge and positive step. I really hope it has gone well! Especially as we have to drive 2 hours to get to Manchester 2 hours back after school!

 

What exercise would you advocate to help supplement freestyle skiing? He already does a fair bit of mountain biking and the odd bit of downhill biking. The BMX track is too far away to go on a regular basis. I have tried skate parks with his scooter/flowboard but he finds the other kids too intimidating.

 

He is such a perfectionist and so easily gets frustrated and angry with himself or his equipment. Any ideas on how to keep him calm and distract his giving up destructive mindset when things are not going right for him?

Thanks to all

 

Oldish

Glad it went well for him!

 

The best practice for freestyle skiing is probably trampolining, really helps develop air awareness. 

post #14 of 15

Although its in Tahoe and probably not too helpful for your location, the Woodward Tahoe ski camp might be what you are looking for.  They teach freestyle skiing and boarding almost year round.  Perhaps you can contact them to see if there is anything similar in your area.  They do have locations other than Tahoe, but nothing in the UK.  Below is a link to the summer freestyle camps.

 

http://www.woodwardtahoe.com/snow-sports/freeski/on-snow-camp.html

post #15 of 15

That's great to hear, Oldish. I hope he has some fun in the group lessons too. The nice thing about skiing in a lesson is you immediately have stuff to talk about (people's skis, where they ski, etc). Less pressure on him. And a lesson is a great chance for him to practice socializing. 

 

Frustration's a normal part of being a 13 year-old moving between childhood and adolescence. Distraction isn't a long-term strategy as it doesn't address his frustration. Rome wasn't built in a day, and that lesson takes time to learn. People with aspergers tend to be good with structured and procedural information - when in a funk, I suspect he can go back to procedures/structure. Lessons can help give him that structure. He might be interested in reading a ski book or two in his spare time as well as they're often logically organized. But mostly you'll want to help coach him on positive self-talk: sometimes we have off-days in one aspect of our skiing, but there are always some good aspects in one's performance. So the question for him is what worked well, and what elements are going to work better next time? (different language from "what wasn't working") Positive self-talk is a life skill which will serve him well. 

 

For cross-training, inline skating is 100% the best activity with direct crossover to skiing. For the skate park situation, I don't know what the situation is like in England but maybe there's a skating club of some sort he could get involved with. Good suggestion from JohnBi to look for ICP, IISA, or SkateIA instructors. You could also fly over to Canada and come skate with me! Our ski instructor organization (Canadian Ski Instructor Alliance) endorses plyometric exercise in the off-season. It's a bit more interesting than just going to a gym and lifting weights, but it takes a coach who knows what they're doing to get him started.

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