Therapeutic Surfing for SouthCoast Children
Little Compton-based non-profit Gnome Surf has long provided children with intellectual disabilities a way to feel all-inclusive and personally fulfilled through surfing. For those not familiar with this surf therapy organization, its founder, Christopher Antao, explained how surfing is a metaphor for life.
"This is about surfing, right? But at the end of the day, what we're really teaching the kids is how to fall off that surf board and climb right back on," he said.
Antao grew up his entire life with undiagnosed ADHD, and always struggled to fit in.
"I'm not autistic, but working with children who are, I realized that a lot of what autistics feel is very similar to the strain I felt growing up," he said. "I was convinced, from that point on, to do whatever I could to help eliminate that feeling from their lives."
Antao said some non-verbal kids can be quite impatient sometimes.
"When we take them out in the water, they start to realize that they have to be more patient for the next wave to come, and that translates to other things in their lives that requires patience," he said.
He said the feeling they get after their first wave on a surfboard can resonate with other first-time experiences.
"You can see their sense of accomplishment after riding the wave, and this is the door opener that begins as they start to come around," Antao said.
Parents swear by Gnome Surfing, telling Antao how their kids are sleeping much better and appear much happier, more self- confident and capable.
"We meet the kids on the beach at their individual level," he said. "All of them are scared at first, but we really take our time. Sometimes the whole session to get them in the water, because we believe every child is unique and their differences do not make them less."
Gnome Surf and Christopher Antao have been helping children with a success rate of over 97 percent.
"I'm trying to reach as many families as possible who are dealing with children with some form of intellectual disability in which Gnome Surfing can bring some light," he said.