IT sold out in an hour, and the smiles at Lake Macquarie's first Surfing the Spectrum event since COVID lockdowns made it clear why.
Around 60 families headed to Blacksmiths Beach in the NSW Hunter region for respite, therapy and a day on the waves, as the youth-oriented program which teaches beach awareness while connecting young people on the spectrum to volunteers and the surf, returned.
"Many of our families have reported to us the heightened anxiety they have experienced due to lockdowns, and how this has impacted their ability to engage in the community," Surfing the Spectrum cofounder Aimee Blacker said.
"The additional stressors placed on the family have not been met with the appropriate supports they desperately needed during this time.
"This event provides a hope for a way out, the knowledge they will be accepted and the support they have been seeking."
The program began five years ago, when founders Ms Blacker and Tahlia Anderson, who had been working with Newcastle Surf School, stepped in to organise a one-off surf event for young people on the autism spectrum.
"For all kids, it's a different experience," Ms Anderson said.
"Some kids might have sensitivities to sound, some others to the textures and the feel of the sand, and some have fears of the waves in the water, and maybe even the crowds.
"For some kids, being in the water is a complete release - like a decompression almost - and a complete calm.
"The experience can be completely different for each child, but the waves and the ocean are the best environment we have found to be able to deliver for each child where they are."
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