The sun shone brightly and gentle waves lapped the shore, as 12 young people with autism braved the surf for the first time.
The children, ages 8-12, were participants in Spring Break Surf Camp, a successful collaboration between the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD) and the City of Miami Beach Parks and Recreation Department.
This is the seventh year of the unique camping experience offered by CARD, a comprehensive outreach center based at the UM College of Arts & Sciences that serves more than 8,000 individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families each year.
The camp takes place at South Pointe Park, where students spend two hours per day surfing. They also learn basic oceanography and meteorology, and practice swimming and other skills. The camp concludes with a surfing demonstration and a beachside awards ceremony.
Since surf camp started in 2008.
“The relationship among staff members has continued to grow, as has our commitment to providing the surfers an awesome experience,” said Maricarmen Saleta, an educational support specialist with CARD. “We all love SurfCamp because, not only is it a week full of smiles, it is also a week to focus on the kids’ abilities, rather than their disabilities.”
CARD’s executive director and Professor of Psychology Michael Alessandri added, “Each year we are astounded by the transformative impact this week-long event has on the participants.”
Thanks to generous sponsorships, participants attend surf camp free of charge.
This year’s sponsors are Whole Foods Market, jugofresh and the Autism Society of Florida-Miami.