Benefits of Sailing as a form of Recreational Therapy:
A well planned sailing adventure with a team prepared to work with individuals with autism and other disabilities provides a unique setting in which multiple therapeutic modalities are addressed and employed simultaneously. Disguised as a family trip on a boat, the therapeutic nature of the sojourn is less obviously “work” to the participants and more obviously a happy occasion to be enjoyed by the entire family and crew.
Social Interaction: Small environment/cockpit mandates close interaction. It helps counter physical and social boundaries and improves physical and emotional comfort in small spaces.
Teamwork: Team building and collaboration. Participants are encouraged to actively crew the boat to the best of their ability. Participants must cooperate to assist in pulling the lines, wrapping them around the winches and securing them. They also learn the importance of cooperation for man-overboard procedure. Sailing fosters a cooperative environment where everyone has a job on the boat.
Communication/Comprehension: Ability to listen to instructions and follow procedure is encouraged and even presumed. Communication is required between crew and captain to identify and name potential hazards and to navigate. Non-verbal communication is also required when crew members act as a team to navigate, tack, or otherwise manipulate the boat.
Motor Skills/Coordination: Eye-hand coordination is used to hoist sail or pull lines. Balance is worked when ambulating around the boat, using hand holds. Visual stimulation is enhanced while watching for hazards, and aligning boat with object in distance/horizon while steering.
Confidence/Self-Esteem: Empowerment comes from a sense of control while steering and maneuvering the boat as well as being part of team. Participants experience a true sense of accomplishment at facing fears and completing tasks
Environmental awareness: Participants develop an appreciation of nature and waterways. Observation and interaction with wildlife including birds/fish/mammals is educational and often facilitates communication as well as emotional expression. Understanding of effects of pollution on environment and species is also enhanced.
Relaxation: Reduced artificial noise/stimuli: primarily rhythmic sounds of waves lapping the hull and wind in sails is a soothing natural environment. Rhythmic movement of boat is also comforting, yet heeling provides excitement.
Concentration/Focus: children with limited ability to sit still or concentrate are able to focus on tasks on boat and are visibly calmer, relaxed and focused. While aboard, ability increases to concentrate on task(s).
Adventure/Exploration/Imagination: Children dream of being explorers, pirates, etc. A sailing adventure opens up the world to them and encourages imagination. The international nature of our program and virtual programs provide opportunities to learn about faraway places.
Community Integration: As most of our skippers and crew are not “affected families” but members of the community interested in sharing a love of sailing and in assisting those in need, this endeavor fosters communication between often isolated families and the community within which they live.