Free adaptive surfing lessons for children with special needs are organized for the third year in a row at Asparuhovo beach in Varna. The most recent session was held July 23 and two more are scheduled for August 20 and September 9.
Since the start of the project three years ago, more than 60 children with special needs have participated, Martina Panayotova from Akasha Surf School told BTA on Monday.
The free sessions last three hours and are suitable for children and young people with special needs aged 5 to 17, said Iliana Stoilova – she and Yoan Kolev will be instructors of the children. The sessions are group activities and participants are provided with equipment. In addition to surfing, those interested will be able to try windsurf SUP and kayaking.
A group of up to 30 children is formed for each event upon pre-registration.
The children who attend the free events in Varna are most often from the autism spectrum. There are children with motor difficulties, Down syndrome, visually impaired children and children with special needs deprived of parental care.
Alongside the free activities, the surf school is attended by children who are on various camps and in the last few years has worked with a total of more than 150 children with various intellectual, linguistic and motor difficulties. Instructors work individually with about 3-4 children and monitor their progress each year.
“We are sincerely proud of one of the children with special needs who is on the autism spectrum – Victor Genov. We can trace his development back 6 years to when we started working with him in the windsurfing discipline. Vicky is now an independent beginner level windsurfer and has amazing balance in the water,” Panayotova pointed out.
The surf school has the support of professionals who are directly connected to each child: their educators, therapists, adaptive physical activity coaches. The children’s educators, their closest family members, siblings are also often involved in the activities.
“This helps us in our work with the children, because it gives us valuable information about their specific condition, and we are also able to present to those closest to them the accessibility of water sports and that it is quite possible to practice sports on the water while at the same time participating in the child’s therapeutic program,” Panayotova explained.
The instructors are highly qualified coaches in the field of water sports and have extensive experience in working with people with various special needs due to the long-standing partnership with organizations such as Parakids, she added.
This year there will be international trips to exchange the experience and knowledge of all the instructors at the surf school in Portugal, Spain and Greece to gain better qualifications in the field of adaptive surfing and kitesurfing.
The instructors are convinced that surfing helps to increase self-confidence, reduce tension, increase motor activity, improve balance, communication skills and self-expression.
“Their mood is elevated, they get excited, their confidence grows, their fear decreases, and their ability to be in the water and be calm increases. After the classes they are inspired, laughing and confident in their abilities,” Panayotova told BTA.