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Skateboarding Is Therapeutic for Autistic Children

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Has your kid ever had one of those tantrums that makes you just want to run and hide? You know that you can't reason with him, so you ride it out because it will eventually end. What if your child has at least a couple of these every single day? When your child is diagnosed with autism, this may be his coping mechanism. No matter how hard you try, it's not going to change. I really had no idea how severe these episodes can be. It requires an immense amount of patience and a heart of gold.

The best way to cope is to to not let it stop you from exposing your child to all the goodness that surrounds you both. Skateboarding is an eye-opening experience for autistic children, and Chrys Worley is the fearless mother sharing it with the world.

Who is Chrys Worley? She is a mother you NEED to meet. She's a single working mom raising two kids, Sasha (who is autistic) and Fallon. She realized early on that Sasha is drawn to skateboarding and that other kids like him may respond to this creative and athletic outlet. It turns out, she was right and A.Skate was born. The organization's mission is unique: "Skating with kids through acceptance, therapy and education." People that skateboard understand this. Skateboarding is certainly therapeutic.

My kids are skateboarders and they really feel powerful on their boards. Why should that experience be reserved for typical children? I will admit, I knew nothing about A.Skate until I caught a screening of a powerful documentary, Heart Child.

"Kids with autism are amazing... they don't let life pass them by," says Chrys. Sasha is fascinated by car washes, and Chrys encourages this hobby, even taking him to receive an award from a national car wash organization. She does this because it brings Sasha bliss. Chrys doesn't let autism stop Sasha from experiencing life.

If you haven't seen Heart Child, please, please, please figure out a way to make it happen. It got its start on Kickstarter and the enthusiasm is infectious. It's important that people see it. Why? You will be in awe at Chry's resiliency despite constant setbacks. It really empowered me to find the strength at the end of a long day, even when it is seemingly nonexistent. What would life be like without challenges? You will watch Chry's composure and determination and feel enlivened.

If you haven't heard of Heart Child there is a good reason why. It's a completely independent film, and as such, is working within the parameters of an extremely low budget. It's a lot like the organization that it is profiling: scrappy, full of heart and pure love at its core. Thankfully, Vans recognizes that skaters come in all different sizes, and they are helping Ben get the word out. For Ben, it's a match-made in heaven. Vans is such a powerhouse in the skate industry and their reach is worldwide. That's what A.Skate needs to become in the autistic community. But they need your help.

I spoke with director, Ben Duffy, about his baby:

Eva: How did you get acquainted with A Skate?

Ben Duffy:   I got acquainted with A.Skate by sending an email to Crys Worley saying I wanted to help anyway I could. I loved the idea of it so much, and as a filmmaker, I used the only tool I know how to use, a camera. Luckily, it's a tool that can be useful to something like the A.Skate foundation. 

Eva: One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is watching Sasha tantrum over a ripped receipt. How difficult was this scene to shoot?

Ben Duffy:   I look at the way this scene unfolded as spiritual. Filming it was not was not the problem. It was so spellbinding to see Sasha losing control in front of all those people, that I just sort of got sucked into the camera, and hid behind it in a way, so much that I forgot to turn the microphone on.

Eva: Do you have any background in skateboarding?

Ben Duffy:   Very much so. I have been skateboarding for almost ten years now. Pretty much, the same way that Crys finds skateboarding to be therapeutic to her autistic son, Sasha, I find it to be for me. Skateboarding is my way of releasing all my energy, and keeping me from going off the deep end. Independent filmmaking can be extremely stressful, especially when your a purist. I like making films that are an externalization of who I am, and you grow with the film. All I can say is, sometimes your film can take you for one wild ride. Skateboarding helps me to maintain a balance. 

I urge you all to figure out a way to see the film and to get involved with A.Skate in any capacity. I am volunteering at my first A.Slate event this January and I know that it will be life changing.