Born on the west coast of America, surf therapy admittedly sounds like an American idea. But today (as of 2020), this form of therapy is making waves across the world, even as it increasingly becomes a popular way of tackling a wide range of health problems, including depression and anxiety, not only in adults but also in children. In fact, any surfer will tell you that spending only a few minutes or hours in the water effectively puts mental health problems, such as stress and anxiety, to bed, no matter how overwhelming the problem may be. This can, in no small extent, be attributed to the ocean’s humbling force, as well as the meditative nature of surfing. From riding a wave and controlling breathing while paddling, to everything in between, all the surfing elements tend to produce a euphoric feeling, rarely found in any other environment. Like many other sports, surfing brings about a feeling of self-fulfillment, making it possible for you to benefit from an improved sense of confidence.
While some people tend to brush away the psychological effects of surfing, one thing remains intact; surfing is a therapy for not only adults but also kids and adolescents. In this article, we focus on the health benefits of surf therapy for children. But before that, let’s look at how surf therapy works and why it is a better option for alleviating symptoms of mental health problems in kids than the use of drugs.
According to research, it is the sensation generated from wave riding, which motivates surfers to surf. To put it another way, surfing feels good, and that is why surfers love the sport. But what exactly is that sensation derived from surfing? Well, it all starts with dopamine, a brain’s transmitter responsible for enjoyable experiences. Any pleasurable activity, such as having sex or eating, raises the levels of dopamine in the brain. As a result, the brain understands that what occurred was good and should happen again in the future. With the ability to encourage crucial behaviors, dopamine is essential for your child’s well-being.
The bad news, however, is that certain things can hijack the dopamine train in your child. Drugs, for instance, could result in abnormal dopamine levels, tricking your child’s brain into holding the notion that the drug is more crucial than even food for survival. While drugs could work well for your mentally challenged kid, it is the footprints they leave behind, which are discouraging. Long-term use of drugs to cure mental health disorders come with a whole world of side effects, which may wreak havoc on your child’s health, affecting his quality of life. That’s where natural remedies, such as surf therapy, come in. With surf therapy, you can be sure your kid will gain relief from the effects of autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), high sensitivity, and lots of other mental health disorders without experiencing any adverse effects.
As already mentioned, surf therapy feels good, leading to increased dopamine levels in your child’s brain. But unlike medications, surfing comes with lots of benefits, resulting in the improvement of the general health status of your child, no matter how long he does it. In fact, it would be better if your child got addicted to surfing as this would deliver maximum benefits. Remember, a child who surfs regularly will most likely experience better symptom relief than one who surfs occasionally.
Surf Therapy for Autism, ADHD, and High Sensitivity in Kids
Autism, ADHD, high sensitivity, and other behavioral and mental disorders in kids are generally addressed using drug therapy. While we cannot dispute the effect of drug therapy, the fact remains that drugs can either be a hit or a miss and could result in far-reaching side effects, as explained in the previous section of this content. Thankfully, there is a natural alternative around us; the waves of the sea. As a matter of fact, various scientific researchers confirm that surfing soothes and relieves a wide range of mental health problems, in addition to high sensitivity, autism, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Autism occurs in early childhood and infancy, and it delays the child’s development in various basic processes, including interaction, playing, and talking. This disorder manifests itself through a spectrum of signs and symptoms, which may vary from one kid to another. While some autistic children experience only mild symptoms, others have to overcome severe impairments. But one sure thing is the fact that every autistic kid has at least some degree of impairment in one or more of the following areas:
- Flexible behaving and thinking
- Relationship with other children and the surrounding environment
- Verbal and non-verbal communication
As a parent, you definitely know your children better than anyone else can do. That puts you in the best position to spot the earliest autism signs, something that a pediatrician may not be able to do in a 30-minute visit. Yes, a pediatrician is your valuable partner when it comes to discovering your child’s issues. Still, your own observation is something you cannot overlook. Ideally, you will need to understand what is typical of children and what is not. Autistic kids typically experience developmental delays; thus, you will need to be on red alert, just to ensure your child is hitting some important milestones in life, whether cognitive, emotional, or social. This way, you will be able to spot any warning signs just in time to take appropriate action.
However, it should not be lost on you that delays in your child’s development are not necessarily a sign of autism, since there are many other conditions which may slow down developmental stages in children. Furthermore, every kid has their own rate of development, so don’t panic if your child takes a little longer to walk or talk.
How Therapy Can Help Your Autistic Kid
Under the guidance of supportive and friendly mentors, a child with autism can be able to interact with other members of their social setting, form social bonds, and communicate their needs. Through surf therapy, your autistic child can gain the ability to operate more effectively in their environment, while, at the same time, avoiding isolation and the stigma associated with autism.
While on surf therapy, your kid will join a community of non-judgmental and supportive individuals who will be by their side as long as they live. This is because such a supportive community understands what it means to live with autism, and even some of them may have been victims of the condition in the past. With this community around them, your child will learn how to control their emotional behavior and manage their health. It is this ability to manage their condition that makes your autistic child avoid negative emotions and social isolation, which comes with the condition. Once the child overcomes the challenges, they will realize their strength and experience improved self-confidence. They will stay positive in life and engage in activities that will enhance their well-being and quality of life.
Is your kid experiencing difficulty in controlling their impulsive behavior, following instructions, sitting still, paying attention, or concentrating? If your answer is yes, then your child may be a victim of what mental health professionals called attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. While all kids tend to be oblivious, restless, and destructive to people around them, autistic children exhibit these signs and symptoms more often than normal kids in the same age bracket. A child with ADHD cannot follow instructions and complete tasks appropriate for their age, and that is why they find it challenging to complete classwork or excel in school. They may also not be able to get along with their peers, resulting in isolation.
ADHD symptoms can either be hyperactive or inattentive. The hyperactive symptoms of ADHD in children include the following:
- Too much interrupting or talking
- Excessive impatience
- Too much climbing and running
- Difficulty keeping quiet while playing
- Difficulty staying in one place
- Trouble waiting for his turn
On the other hand, your kid is said to have inattentive ADHD symptoms if they exhibit the following:
- Dislike for sustained effort
- Trouble organizing
- Difficulty following instructions
- Tendency to get distracted easily
- Tendency to make careless mistakes
- Appearing as though they are not listening even when someone speaks to them directly
While the majority of autistic children exhibit a combination of both sets of symptoms, some of them experience either of the two sets. So, you will need to be on red alert to know which symptoms your kid has.
How Surf Therapy Helps With ADHD in Children
Just like autism, ADHD treatment typically involves medication (psychotropic medication), meant to alleviate the symptoms of the condition, such as impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, and inattentiveness, by activating the so-called frontal lobe in the brain. This is the part of the brain which controls emotions, social behavior, working memory, and executive functioning. While history has it that these medications indeed work to relieve ADHD symptoms, this tends to be only a short-term solution. And of course, the drugs come with side effects, which may leave the patient worse than he was before, in the long run. It is for this reason that many parents of kids with ADHD are now turning to natural solutions, with surf therapy being a priority.
So, how does the therapy work for your ADHD child? Surfing is a form of exercise in itself; yes, a moderate workout. It is no secret that such an exercise enhances various neurological processes associated with controlling behavior, memory, and attention, in addition to increasing body energy, regulating sleep, and boosting mood. In fact, a 2013 study in the Journal of Pediatrics attests to the fact that kids with ADHD improve in impulsive control, arithmetic, and reading, following a session of moderate aerobic exercise.
Highly Sensitive Children
You have probably experienced high sensitivity at some point in your life. If you are highly sensitive, you are very much attuned to the surrounding environment, and you feel every effect intensely. Thus, a highly sensitive child is tapped into his intuition and has a profound sense of empathy. He can quickly sense what someone else wants at a given time. In a nutshell, having a highly sensitive child by your side could be a nice thing. However, the problem comes when your child begins viewing his sensitivity as a weakness. In that case, you will need to take action to turn around the situation so that your child may see his sensitivity as a gift, which he can share with others. By putting your kid in a setting where he can learn to hand his sensitivities in various different situations, you will be allowing his star to shine. One of the best strategies you can apply to help your highly sensitive child is surf therapy.
How Surf Therapy Helps Your Highly Sensitive Kid
Finding an outlet for your highly sensitive child to process his emotions is a great way to help him deal with the condition. This outlet can be an activity he enjoys, such as surfing. While your kid may not like surfing, it may be incumbent upon you to make him love the activity. Not able to do that? Surf Therapy Travel is here to help.
Surf Therapy Travel: What We Do
Did you know that children with disabilities such as autism, high sensitivity, and ADHD are typically attracted to water bodies? At Surf Therapy Travel, we understand this, and that is why we offer surf therapy programs to kids with disabilities and special needs. We are based in Scheveningen, The Hague, Netherlands. Through surfing, we help your child to improve in not only his emotions but also physical well being. The transformative properties inherent to the ocean empower your child, allowing him to enjoy deserved moments of acceptance, love, and laughter.
Additionally, experiences in water are known to deliver therapeutic effects to children with mental health problems. So, if your child is suffering from a mental health problem, such as those discussed in this piece and you have been wondering what to do, enroll him or her in our program. We manage what medications cannot control.
Surf Therapy; a Natural Remedy for Mental Problems in Kids
With medications for mental health problems continuing to cause side effects, it may be time to shift to natural remedies and surf therapy is one of them.