Kids with autism learned how to shred at four free skateboarding clinics in Lake Forest on Saturday.
The footwear and apparel company Etnies joined with charities Autism Speaks and the A.skate Foundation to host the event, which offered free lunch, skateboarding lessons and skateboarding gear at Etnies Skate Park.
Under patchy clouds, local volunteers and members of the Etnies skateboarding team provided one-on-one lessons.
For some teachers, that meant giving basic instructions; for others, it meant holding each child and pushing him or her along on a skateboard. In some cases, it meant showing the children how to ride the board like a sled.
With a grin on his face, 3-year-old Jaden Chheng stood on a skateboard with the help a volunteer.
“He loves it,” said his mother, Candice, of Long Beach. “He’s smiling and laughing.”
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex brain disorders that can limit a person's ability to communicate or form relationships. The disorder affects 1.5 million people in the United States, according to Autism Speaks, which promotes autism research, advocacy and awareness. About one in 110 children has some form of the syndrome.
For autistic youngsters, skateboarding clinics offer several types of therapy—physical, verbal and sensory—at once, said Chrys Worley, founder of A.skate, which provides free skate clinics to children with autism.
“Right now, these kids are socializing with the other kids,” Worley said. “They’re being social and coming out of their selves and making friends.”
The event was held on World Autism Awareness Day, created by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007.
Shawna Horn, corporate relations director for Autism Speaks, said skateboarding is great for autistic kids because they often have trouble conforming with the rules of more organized sports.
“This allows them to excel on their own,” Horn said.
The event also helped promote the January launch of Etnies' Autism Speaks footwear collection, which features an Autism Speaks logo on shoes. Five percent of the sales will go to Autism Speaks, with a minimum $10,000 donated each year, according to an Etnies spokesperson.
About 80 children signed up for Saturday's clinics, which ran from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Among the boarders was 5-year-old Matthew Sumida of Laguna Niguel. As he learned the ropes, his mother, Sylvia, said she thought the clinics were phenomenal because they helped the kids do normal, everyday things.
“You want your child to have every experience that other children have,” she said.
Seven-year-old Corbin skated with the help of Sabrina Sharif, a clinic volunteer whose boyfriend interns at Etnies.
Corbin's favorite part of riding a skateboard? “I like to do the hills on it,” he said.