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Hundreds of children with autism ride waves in Virginia Beach for therapy

Posted at 11:54 AM, Aug 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-16 17:43:26-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Hundreds of kids with autism are riding some waves this weekend at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

The organization Surfers Healing is hosting a two-day surf camp for kids with autism. News 3 spent the morning at the beach learning why this is deeper than just being on the water.

Jacob Arbeen isn't a teen of many words.

"I did surfing," he told News 3 reporter Brian Hill. When asked if he likes it, "Yes," he said.

The 15-year-old has autism. However, one thing he doesn't mind talking about is his love of the water.

"I like to swim and surf," he said after getting out of the water this morning.

Jacob is one of about 500 kids riding waves or wiping out.

Surfers Healing co-founder Izzy Paskowitz said, "That's where the magic happens. There is a calming, there is a decompression, there is a sensory thing -- and autism is a sensory disorder. So sight, sound, taste, touch, smell all envelop the kids."

Paskowitz said this surf therapy is more than just a fun day at the beach.

"I know from my personal experience with my son, Isaiah, who is on the spectrum. I noticed when he was in the water for quite some time that he had this kind of afterglow of calmness, less outbursts toward himself or other people, a little more focused," Paskowitz explained.

World-class surfers from around the globe are here to help.

Jacob's mom said the chance for him to go for a dive in the ocean has been life-changing.

Related: A local man's inspirational story for World Autism Awareness Day

“I remember the very first time we came here was in 2011. The morning after, he woke up and said, 'Go surfing again,'" Heather Arbeen said. "I mean, I had not heard that many words strung together in a sentence."

Along with the surfing, there's also a 5K scheduled for Saturday morning. Organizers tell News 3 that thanks to their official partner Double Good, they were able to expand the camp to two days and allow more kids to attend.

If you'd like to know more about Surfers Healing, click here.