Posted by: paragon | September 14, 2007

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Surf’s Up: Reaching Kids With Autism

Riding The Waves Is Turning The Tide In The Lives Of Some Children 

ParagonHost, LLC is a proud sponsor of SurfersHealing.org providing world class managed service web hosting. Recently Izzy founder of SurfersHealing was interviewed on CBS.

We invite you to take a peak at this wonderful service that SurfersHealing.org provides to the Autism community.

(CBS) For champion surfer Izzy Paskowitz, conquering the crests of the world’s tallest waves has always brought a rush. One day, he found it also could bring peace.

His son Isaiah is autistic. Years ago, in the middle of a major tantrum, Paskowitz – in desperation – dragged Isaiah into the ocean water and onto his long board. By the time they reached the break line, the mayhem became magic.

“I could see him giggling on the wave as we rode in, and he just looks like he’s happy in the water,” says Paskowitz says. “While we were riding that wave, he was normal.”

The surfer thought the swells of the sea might soothe other children like his. So he started Surfer’s Healing, a camp specifically for autistic kids.  http://www.SurfersHealing.org (Hosting Sponsered by: http://www.ParagonHost.com)

Now in its eighth season, more than 1,000 children participate every year. At the start of the day, the ocean can cause meltdowns. The sensory overload which is typical in autistic kids.

What does Paskowitz attribute that to?

“It just works,” he says. “I think it’s just being in the water. It’s therapeutic being submersed in the water. You sniff it and you taste it and you hear it and you cram all that activity into one experience.”

What does he tell the parents?

“I get a lot of parents who ask ‘This isn’t dangerous, is it?’ Hell yeah, it’s dangerous,” he says. “Why can’t our kids do something dangerous? This is extreme special ed for goodness sake.”

The concept of surfing as therapy hasn’t been scientifically studied, reports CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes. But for the families here, all the science they need is a smile.

“You know, from day one, they told us our sons wouldn’t be able to do anything. And we’ve proven them wrong,” said Sylvia Lopez. She and husband Ed have three children who are autistic.

“It’s no cure,” says Paskowitz. “At the end of the day, we’re going to take our children home and deal with what we have to deal with everyday.”

But today is one day of wonder that, for many of these families, will be enough to make memories to last all year.

See the Videos from:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/09/13/eveningnews/main3258045.shtml

Healing Waves Video

http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=3260119n

Eye to Eye : Surfers Healing Video

http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=3260422n

Sandra Hughes is a CBS News correspondent based in Los Angeles.

A day at the beach is always a welcome outing. This day turned out to be one I won’t soon forget. First, I met a tall, tan, long-haired man named Izzy Paskowitz. In his day, Izzy was a world-class surfer. But we weren’t there to talk about Izzy’s accolades, although that would be an entertaining day.

Today we came to watch Izzy and his surf instructors teach dozens of very unique kids to catch waves off the California coast. These days Izzy runs a surf camp in Pacific Beach but several times a year that camp gets put on hold and everyone puts their energy into a program called “Surfers Healing.” You can see in Izzy’s eyes this is a special day for him and you hear it in the shouts of joy and giggles from the kids emerging from their cars that this is a day they have been looking forward to all year. What’s incredible about today is that all the surfers are autistic children. With symptoms that range from mild to severe, the kids come from all over the country for this one day of wonder.

To give you an idea why this is so special I should rewind about 16 years to the birth of Izzy’s son Isaiah. From the beginning Isaiah’s mom knew something was wrong with her baby. Izzy didn’t want to accept it. Then they got the diagnosis of autism. Isaiah has a pretty severe form of the disorder and it often played out in the form of major tantrums. During one of those tantrums, while the family was at the beach, Izzy dragged Isaiah into the ocean water and onto his surfboard. And that’s when something magical happened for father and son. Izzy told me riding the wave and feel of the ocean around Isaiah calmed him and soothed him like nothing else.

Izzy decided if surfing helped his son so much, it might help other autistic kids, too. So he founded “Surfers Healing”—the one day camp for autistic kids. It’s now in its eighth season and over a thousand kids take part every year.

Sometimes the kids are reluctant to take the plunge. There were some tears and shouts as they headed out into the water. But each time the mayhem melted away and as they headed back into shore riding a long-board with their instructor their faces were filled with the joy of the moment. A moment kids like them don’t often get.

I interviewed one mother who brought her THREE autistic sons to the camp and with tears in her eyes she told me how happy they all were to have this one magnificent day. Sylvia Lopez said, “They told me the boys would never do anything normal, and we proved them wrong.”

Armen Keteyan is Chief Investigative Correspondent for CBS News.


As many of you know, in a previous life I was a correspondent for the HBO show “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” During my eight years on the show I did some 60-odd stories, one of the most memorable and meaningful having to do with Surfer’s Healing, a surf camp for autistic children, the subject of a wonderful story by Sandra Hughes and producer Matt Lombardi on the Evening News tonight.It was three summers ago, August of 2004, when I first met the first family of surfing – the Paskowitz’s – and what a family it was: led by then-83-year-old Jewish-born Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz and his Mexican-American ex-opera singer wife Juliette, and their nine – count ‘em – nine children. We told the story of Doc, an M.D. from Stanford who turned his back on a conventional career – and big bucks – to embark on what his children called The Great Experiment: Marrying Juliette, starting a family, and traveling the world in a tiny trailer.

“America not only gives you the opportunity to be very rich and survive, but it also gives you the opportunity to be very poor and survive,” Doc told me during a long interview on Mission Beach in San Diego. “And we thought that our survival at the lowest level would keep us more together.”

So they took off in the camper, 96 inches wide, 78 inches high, and 20 feet long, camping and surfing their way through most of the 60s and 70s. Hawaii, California, Mexico, Florida, Israel – they saw it all. Doc making ends meet by treating the poor in small towns, a real-life Oceans 11 packed into 160-square-feet of space.

By 1972 Doc had hatched part two of his plan, spreading the gospel of health and surfing to other kids and troubled youth, leading to the creation of the Paskowitz Surf Camp. The beginning of what the Paskowitz brothers would call “spreading the aloha” – sharing the joy of surfing, the joys of living clean, eating clean, surfing clean.

Before long the kids grew up and the family split apart, some becoming rock musicians, some models and artists. Only one stuck with surfing. That would be Israel, Izzy to one and all, who would go on to win a world championship and pro titles as a long boarder, marry the beautiful Danielle, and have a son named Isaiah.

When it came to autism, Isaiah turned out to be like so many other children: His vocabulary dropping from 50 to words to three by the age of two; the lack of eye contact; a beautiful little boy one minute, a full-blown, blood-curdling scream the next. When I first met Isaiah he was 13 years old and sitting on the warm sands of Pacific Beach, Calif. He was surrounded by about 25 other autistic campers and their families, either in the water or looking out, shouts of joy ringing the air, smiles all around.

The water, Izzy had discovered, had an almost magical impact on his son, a soothing, calming influence. One day a friend asked Izzy to take his autistic son out for a ride. The same thing happened. It was the start of Surfer’s Healing.

I talked with Izzy recently, catching up on old times. Surfer’s Healing has come a long way in the last three years, caught several big waves of success, as well they should. Check out the Web site to see what I mean. Volunteer if you can. I think you’ll discover “spreading the aloha” offers a certain magic for us all, be it in or out of the water.

SurferHealing.org http://www.SurfersHealing.org

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