Moray surf giving new sense of freedom for autistic children

Lossiemouth surf ideal training ground for people with autism
Lossiemouth surf ideal training ground for people with autism

A MORAY FATHER who made national headlines when he sparked a campaign for social and recreational facilities to be granted to people with autism is behind a new initiative to give surfing lessons to autistic children.

Glyn Morris began campaigning in 2011 after his 16-year-old son Gregor was asked to leave a London theatre by a sound engineer. Now the Forres-based father has linked with the instructor and owner of the Riding High Surf School – although his own son will not benefit as he does not like water splashing on his face.

However, Glyn and the surf school owner Kev Anderson believe that other children with autism will enjoy the surfing experience and through it gain social skills – so the initiative was launched that brought five children between the ages of six and 17 to the beach at Lossiemouth.

The scheme is being backed by the National Autistic Society (NAS) who say that surf lessons under the scheme will also be made available to adults.

One of the first to take to the surf at Lossiemouth was 11-year-old Grant Drummond, whose mum Angela said: “It was absolutely brilliant – I have not seen Grant enjoy himself so much for quite some time.

“He was a bit wobbly at first and did not want to go into the sea as it was very cold – but the instructor was great with him. Once he was in the water there was no going back – I think it worked so well because it is a sport he can do on his own, he is in control.”

Mr Anderson said that it was the first venture of its kind in Scotland, adding that the lessons would be sensitive to the needs of those taking part: “For example, we will take plenty of time to get used to the sensation of being in a wetsuit and of course the temperature of the North Sea,” he explained.

Father of two Mr Morris is now a volunteer for NAS Scotland. He said: “It is hard to understand until you are out there, but when you are surfing there is a special focus on the board and the water.

“I thought that could really help someone who is on the spectrum to interact with others. My son, Gregor, does not like the sensation of having water splashed in his face so the surf school is not for him – but it will appeal to other autistic children, young people and adults.”

The Moray and Nairn branch of NAS Scotland are currently fundraising to buy equipment for the surf school which is offering lessons tailored for people with autism from throughout Scotland.