My recommendations to parents of autistic children that are learning to ski, ( also for children with sensory sensitivity issues) are as follows:
1. Rent equipment for the season or ahead of time- The rental area of any ski resort can be a nightmare for these type kids due to the chaos that is usually found there, also there is a lot of waiting which is difficult for the kids as well , and that would not be a good way to start off the day and then proceed to a lesson.
2. Have the child try on the boots and walk around in them, ideally- many times before the actual lesson. If the child cannot handle the boots the first time, try another day. But, if over and over the child cannot handle the boots... this might not be the year. If you have a child that likes to rollerblade or ice skate... the boots or skiing will probably not be a problem
3. Try to bring the child for a visit to the ski resort a day or two before the lesson. This seems to lessen anxiety. Try to make it a fun, positive experience, maybe a hot chocolate as a treat or playing in the snow... anything that marks this a positive event.
4. Ask for an instructor that is familiar with children with autism.
5. Introduce the child to the instructor. let the instructor know about the child and his or her strengths and limitations. Give the instructor info regarding a reward when the lesson is over.
At first, I hated this. I had more than one parent give me fruit snacks to give their child after each ride up the chair lift. I felt like I was training a dog and thought it was horrible. But, these parents knew their children, and sure enough, once we got past the anxiety and unfamiliarity of the lesson ( it took many, many lessons) I eventually did not need the fruit snacks. in fact the parents were able to use the ski lesson as a reward!
6. It helps to have the ski lesson at the same time, place and with the same instructor. Predictability and routine lessen anxiety.
7.Explain to the child that they are to listen to the instructor. Let the instructor know if the child has any behaviors or triggers that might endanger the child or the instructor. Give the instructor advice or words to use if the child has a tantrum or is self injurious that may cause problems on the chair lift or while skiing, (i.e. biting, hitting, slapping, pinching.) it can be very dangerous if the instructor does not have the right tools to calm the child down.
8. Be aware that it will take time. Not all kids will take to it. Most of my students do. I love skiing backward as they follow me down the slope. I see grins sometimes and a few of my students sing all the way down. There is nothing better than that.
The best part of all for me? The parents. Most had no idea that their kids were capable of skiing, let alone being good at it. One Mom told me that when she looks up the hill and sees all the kids skiing down- she can't tell which is hers. They all look the same.
If you have any questions regarding autistic kids and skiing please email me- i love to share!