My son Charlie does not come from a skiing family. Despite our native Flathead roots, we’ve never ventured onto the slopes, and prior to starting DREAM Adaptive, Charlie had never touched a pair of skis. At first, I was nervous about how it would go. Charlie is highly impacted by autism spectrum disorder. Although he continues to grow and embrace new experiences all the time, skiing seemed like a big challenge. There are many sensory factors to consider on the mountain, as well as the physical and social demands. These are difficult areas for my son, and I wondered if the program would be able to meet his many needs.
On our first day of lessons, my fears were immediately alleviated when a wonderful DREAM volunteer met us in the lodge. Charlie was warmly welcomed, and his volunteer match made us both feel comfortable right away. I had brought Charlie up to observe before we started, and we had watched some skiing videos at home to help him prepare. Charlie was excited, and before I knew it his partner had his skis on and was leading him up the hill. They did their first run before I knew it, and right away Charlie was hooked!
Two years later, I can confidently say that skiing with DREAM Adaptive is one of the absolute highlights of Charlie’s year. He looks forward to the season each fall, and can’t wait to get out and enjoy the runs. Although he has also done physical therapy since birth, Charlie’s disability is largely invisible, and his autism needs cannot be met in traditional ski lessons. With the assistance of a one-to-one volunteer, Charlie can successfully navigate the skiing experience, and his physical strength and confidence is growing every year. I am so proud of what he has achieved in the program!
Watching my son thrive in DREAM Adaptive has been extremely rewarding for me as a parent. I have seen him embrace new challenges, make new friends, and learn a recreational activity that will stay with him for life. We have brought a number of friends and family to cheer Charlie on in sessions, and I know his self-esteem has grown from these experiences. I am excited to see him welcomed into a new activity, and look forward to when these new skills can also be extended to Special Olympics. In this way, adaptive skiing has not only been a positive experience on its own, it has also been a bridge to further social and community involvement.
DREAM has helped show me what my son can do, and for that I am thankful. It has enhanced his physical and emotional development and enriched his quality of life. Charlie’s younger brother started traditional ski lessons this year after watching what DREAM Adaptive has done for his brother. He wants to keep up with Charlie! I am extremely grateful for the DREAM volunteers and everyone who has supported this wonderful program. See you on the slopes!