We are still enjoying the beauty of Colorado for another week. But I wanted to share some of our experiences at the “High Adventure Weekend” with you while it is still fresh in my mind. It was truly one of the most meaningful—and purely fun—experiences we have had as a family. I’ll have to add the photos later though. Plus, the thoughtful staff had a photographer present so we could focus on activities rather than picture-taking. She is going to send us all a commemorative cd, which I am sure, will have better photos than any I took!
The Adaptive Sports staff are amazing people and as families, we all bonded really quickly. Seven families participated. Every beautiful color of the autism spectrum was represented. The children ranged in age from 4 to 14. Each family had at least one child with autism and most brought along their NT siblings. Each family was assigned a staffer, trained in adaptive sports for people with special needs, including safety, of course. I felt we were in really good hands. Our guide was Jeff, wonderful, soft-spoken guy whom we all liked immediately.
I thought I would write three different posts: the adventures, the food, and the love.
First, the adventures. The first night of the program, we had a wonderful family-style dinner where we met our staffer and got to know each other a bit. They had photo/picture schedules there of all the activities we were to do over the weekend (We had been mailed these in advance too.) After dinner, the staff took all the children to the hotel pool and the parents enjoyed some adult time. The pool was quite elaborate, for a hotel pool. It had fountains and part of it went under the building giving the impression of a cave, there was also a hot tub. By all accounts, a fabulous time was had by all!
While the kids had their pool party, we had an open discussion with a speaker, a local doctor who combines traditional medicine with some DAN! Protocols, though she does not consider herself a DAN! Doctor. She just has an “integrated medicine” practice. She was a very gentle soul and it was less a lecture than a facilitated discussion about dietary interventions, supplements, and allergies. As parents, we quickly found most of us had some common ground with our children’s special health issues.
The next day, the adventure began! We had breakfast on a terrace patio that had a great view of the chairlift. As we ate, everyone prepared their children to ride the chairlift by watching others get on and talking about it. When each family was ready, at their own pace, they and their staff person rode the lift. If the lift was too scary, a van ride was possible.
After the lift ride, we assembled at the “challenge course.” This is an area including equipment intended to teach skills needed for rock climbing, but it is also used by people who want “team building” experiences, say on a corporate retreat. Our staff arranged the course with different stations. Some activities could be done as a family; some required two families to team up. At any time, if a child needed a break, it was understood. The Prince, for example, had a bit of a melt-down because he had to wait for an activity he really wanted to do. Jeff suggested we ride the chair lift (beloved by the Prince) a few times. Problem solved!
We started as a group in a circle with some silly funny games, such as Simon Says, but adapted so that no one is “out” or loses. Then we started with the lower level ropes course. Here is an example of one activity: A tightrope is strung, kind of low to the ground between two platforms. Above, ropes hang at intervals as hand grips. Each family member took a turn walking the tightrope while the others spotted them. They had a variety of outdoor obstacle course-like set-ups, most involving ropes and balance. Very outdoorsy-fun, OT kind of stuff.
We broke for a delicious and hearty picnic lunch provided by the Center, which we ate on the course, enjoying the view of the Rockies. Then, for the grand finale, we moved to the high ropes course. Here, basically, all the elements of the low course are elevated several feet off the ground. For those who wanted to participate, we were fitted with helmets, harnesses, and lots of safety equipment. We could climb a tree fitted with grips then choose to “fly” down a zip line as the staffers would belay us. You could climb as high or low as you felt comfortable. The true thrill seekers among us could practice at height the tightrope walk that we did at the low levels. Again team work was required as we acted as spotters and “back up belayers.”
This was really exciting stuff and all the kids especially enjoyed seeing the moms and dads getting out of their comfort zones and trying something new. I personally loved the zip line and related activities. Guess my inner gymnast is yearning to be free! Here is a link to the Adaptive Sports Center's website showing you the high course, so you can get an idea. (This is not our group, but I promise to share photos ASAP.)
That night, by popular request, the staffers graciously took the kids for another pool party and the adults enjoyed cocktails at the hotel bar and got to know each other better still. It was lovely and relaxing.
The next day we drove about an hour to a campsite with a lake. We spent the day on the lake doing whatever we wanted. Some children just played in the sand. Some went swimming. Most of us tried out the canoes. More great food and snacks.
It was here that our family had our “high adventure.” The Prince and the Professor must have decided GFCF Mommy needed a little more excitement. As we were nearing the time to leave and go the campsite, the Prince wanted one more canoe ride, to “surf the waves” as he put it. The wind had kicked up and the lake now did have some waves, but the Professor obliged. Well, they took on too much water and the canoe tipped over. Everyone was fine, they had on life-jackets, the Professor is actually quite skilled at water sports and I knew they would be fine. But standing on shore watching this is not a happy place to be!
I was impressed with the staff’s rapid response. Within a second they had hopped in two canoes with the speed of light. In the meantime, another dad who was in a canoe nearby picked up the Prince and put him in his canoe. The Prince was fine, just scared. He’s a great swimmer, but this surprised him. I was glad for the life-jacket. By this time the staff had reached the Professor and a nearby motor boater also came over and towed the canoes and everyone in. I keep telling myself this will be a good story one day!
We left the lake and went to a lovely secluded campsite in a grove by a stream. The Prince loved the whole idea of spending the night in a tent. The kids basically ran around, just throwing rocks in the stream was a popular activity. The staff had brought balls and facilitated some games for those who wanted to play, which was most of the parents. Quite a competitive little Four Square game got started!
While we played, some of the staff made another delicious dinner. After dinner we had songs around the campfire and slept under a gorgeous clear sky with more stars than I have ever seen before.
After breakfast, our adventures sadly came to an end. But we’ll have the memories forever.
Part 2 will describe the meals, which were pretty darn impressive considering all the different dietary needs of the group. Part 3 will be my feelings about how special everyone who participated was and what a wonderful, empowering, non-judgemental, nurturing experience it was for us as a family.