A colleague recently forwarded me an article highlighting the benefits that rock climbing (indoor and outdoor) can have for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), including Asperger’s Syndrome. Autism is a developmental disability that affects social interaction and communication, and can be accompanied by repetitive behaviors, restricted interests, and uneven motor skills.
Some are finding that rock climbing, with its emphasis on gross and fine motor skills, tactile stimulation (the texture of the rocks or the holds), and reliance on structured communication, is a good therapeutic fit for children with ASDs.
Climbers are motivated to communicate by the joy of climbing and risk avoidance. Rock climbing also provides problem-solving skills, independent thinking and choice-making and enhanced risk taking decisions in a safe and nurturing environment.
Programs specifically designed to encourage children with disabilities to participate in rock climbing activities are starting to appear across the country. Splore, a Utah based non-profit dedicated to providing accessible outdoor adventure, runs an 8-week indoor rock climbing course designed specifically for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“We took a chance on Splore and their RockOn! Program. We are so glad we did! It’s wonderful to see our child gain confidence and do remarkable things. We had no idea the doors this would unlock for us. It’s the safest way for him to be Spider-Man.”
You can read more about Splore’s program on their website here: http://www.splore.org/rock_on.html
While there may not be a program near you, rock gyms are becoming more and more common and most of them do run programs for children. If you have a child or loved one with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and you think rock climbing may be an enjoyable or helpful activity, check with your local gym to see what can be arranged. With a bit of guidance and information you can help them tailor a program that fits your needs.