The ski season is over, but the memories of skiing with my family will be forever etched in my memory. It was a beautiful day of spring skiing as I embarked on the slowest run of my life, but that didn’t bother me at all. My eyes filled with tears as I watched my 10 year old daughter, Shae, skiing on her own! To see your child engaged in a sport you love and feel pride is an experience that many parents treasure. But this was different. Shae has an Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as a Developmental Coordination Disorder. She has very little core strength and her gross and fine motor skills are lacking. She is also prone to meltdowns related to sensory and communication issues. So to be able to ski on her own (and enjoy doing it) is no small feat.
The people who made this possible are the wonderful volunteers at Silver Star Adaptive Snow Sports (SSASS). Shae has been skiing with them for the past four years. There were times that I thought she would never ski independently, let alone like it. The volunteers that have worked with Shae over the years have shown great patience, understanding, respect and fondness. The joy on their faces as they would tell us of Shae’s accomplishments was beautiful to see. She wasn’t always full of love and light. Many times she would melt down and refuse to ski. There was never a hint of frustration, no harsh words. Instead they would take her inside for a hot chocolate and try again.
April was Autism Awareness Month and SSASS is just one of many organizations in Vernon that provides opportunities for kids on the Autism Spectrum to have a go at a sport they may not have been able to manage in a regular program. SSASS teaches and assists persons with disabilities to ski and snowboard at Silver Star Mountain Resort. It is entirely volunteer run. Students are persons of all ages and with a wide range of disabilities.
Special thanks to the program coordinators and all of the volunteers who make skiing and snowboarding possible for kids and adults with varying challenges. I look forward to many seasons as a part of the SSASS program.
Kerry Vance, Vernon