From Braehead to Andorra via Aviemore – all thanks to DSUK

Our journey with DSUK started back in 2012 when we moved to Paisley. Ruairidh & Cameron were aged 10 and 8 then, both are Autistic, with very little useful language, not good at following verbal instructions and not the best coordination in the world.  I didn’t every think they would learn to ski or snowboard but what a journey we have had.  

It’s only 8 years ago but even that short time ago it was difficult to find activities for them where they could be supported and be taught in a way that could work for them. During a sledging session at Braehead I saw some information about DSUK and we got in touch.  

That’s when we first met the lovely Keira – she taught both boys at the beginning and we have had lots of fab instructors in the time since then (Gill, Alan, James, Louisa, Shaun, Kat, Keiron to name a few) – all of whom had the patience and understanding to teach the boys to ski and snowboard.  Very often people with autism like routine in their life. Our weekly visit to Braehead to ski/snowboard is very much part of our weekly routine now – the Snowfactor staff and DSUK know the boys well –it’s a safe, inclusive and fun environment for them, which I very much appreciate.

They both started off with ski lessons and we had a couple of annual trips to Aviemore to put what they had learned into practice – they loved the freedom of being out on the mountain. Fresh air and lots of space and finally a sport we could do as a family.  I would just add that I started learning when they did – and I was born before men walked on the moon – so glad I did because I love it too!

The “cool teenager” took over in Cameron first and he tried snowboarding with Gill as his instructor – I think he was one of the early adaptive snowboarders, lots of experimenting with tethers and hand holding or not.  However, speed demon that he is, he decided to go back to two planks and is back on skis. Ruairidh asked to snowboard about 4 years ago firstly with Gill, then Alan and more recently with James.  He really took to snowboarding and again we put into practice all we learned each year on our trips to Aviemore.

On our Aviemore break in 2019 Keira was trying to encourage us to go on a DSUK Activity week.  Family holidays had always been in the UK where we could literally pack everything but the kitchen sink so that it was home from home for the boys – having to keep the same routines as home and many other environmental challenges for them meant we had never gone abroad.  The thought of a flight, staying in a hotel, strange people, different routines – I really wasn’t sure we could do this. However, 2020 was going to be Ruairidh’s 18th and we decided to take on the challenge – Ruairidh & Mum’s big adventure to Andorra.  So many lists, preparation, visits to the airport, social stories and the support of the DSUK Team assuring a very nervous mum that it would be alright.

Wow, what a week – I could not believe how much Ruairidh enjoyed it.  The DSUK team were so supportive in the resort.  Our local instructor Woody was patient with Ruairidh, enabling him to enjoy a fantastic week on some proper big hills with a lot of snow. Ruairidh handled each and every new experience so well, and is already talking about his next trip.  Anyone seeing Ruairidh on the slope that week with Woody would simply have seen two guys having a great time on their snowboards.  A really proud moment for me to see Ruairidh being just like any other young man – except I know just what has gone into making it possible and so much of that is down to everyone from DSUK who has supported us over the years. Thank You!

A little message from his current instructor, James. "Working with Ruairidh has been probably the most brilliant opportunity teaching as through-out the years and helping/teaching has been filled with a great joy and happiness. I started assisting with Gillian, whether it be as a balance aid for Ruairidh or running round in circles as a guide but once we moved to tethering it was made a little easier to guide him round.It has been fantastic seeing him develop to a good snowboarder in his own right from the initial steps we took, taking small steps at a time and building Ruairidh’s confidence bit by bit and seeing him ride a mountain has filled me with great pride in his hard work and dedication to getting to where he is.Long may it continue when Ruairidh is back on the slopes!"

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