A rolling remedy
by James Phillips
Dec 27, 2011 | 1709 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A.skate Foundation offers skateboarding clinics across the United States for children with autism. The group is based in Alabama and is planning to build the world’s first handicap accessible, autism friendly skate park in the Birmingham area. - Photo Special to the Eagle
A.skate Foundation offers skateboarding clinics across the United States for children with autism. The group is based in Alabama and is planning to build the world’s first handicap accessible, autism friendly skate park in the Birmingham area. - Photo Special to the Eagle
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An Alabama-based nonprofit group is hoping to build the world’s first special needs-friendly skate park.

A.skate Foundation, a group that introduces children with autism to skateboarding, has plans to build the park in the Birmingham area.

The group’s founder, Crys Worley, said A.skate is currently raising the funds needed to build the park. Through a variety of fundraisers, she said $25,000 has already been collected to be put toward the construction.

Worley, a McCalla resident, started A.skate almost two years ago. Worley is a single mother with two children — Fallon, 5, and Sasha, 7. When Sasha was 2-years-old, he was diagnosed with autism. Worley said both her sons loved skateboarding, but the activity proved to be more than just fun for Sasha.

“It was this unique kind of therapy,” Worley said.

Worley said she noticed her sons’ relationship was much better when they would skate.

“Sasha likes to play by himself, has a lot of anxiety and fights a lot with his younger brother,” she said. “When he’s on a skateboard, they become best friends.”

Many children with autism pressure seek, Worley said. She said there were many times that Sasha would be so stressed that he would ram himself into a wall. Skating now relieves that pressure for him.

“Skateboarding is a pressure-seeking activity,” she said. “You have all your body weight on the board and you move in all directions. That motion relieves pressure.”

Worley said she constructed a 20-foot half-pipe in her backyard to give Sasha a place to skate.

“He loves it,” she said. “There were days when he would get off the school bus and just fall on the ground screaming. With the half-pipe, he can just go inside and grab his board and skate for a while.”

Through A.skate, Worley started holding local skateboard clinics with friends who had children with autism. Those early clinics have grown to the point that Worley now travels throughout the country holding skating clinics for autistic children. All the clinics are held at no cost to the families. The group also helps autistic children purchase skateboard gear.

“We spend a lot of time in Nashville, Atlanta and Los Angeles,” she said. “Those cities have tremendous skating communities that have embraced what we are doing. Getting the skate park built here locally would give children in our own back yards a place to go. When we do clinics in Alabama, we have to do them in church parking lots, because there aren’t any skate parks. Having a clinic in a parking lot, just isn’t safe. We need help in making this park happen.”

Worley said she is amazed at how autistic children and skateboarding go together.

“There is some kind of spiritual connection,” she said. “The kids, the wheels, the rolling motion — it’s a beautiful thing.”

The skate park idea is a part of the Pepsi Refresh Project and is in line to receive a $50,000 grant if it finishes in the top 10 in the contest’s voting. To vote for the project, text 110807 to 73774 or visit www.refresheverything.com/alskate. Voting ends Dec. 31.

When completed, the skate park would be accessible to everyone. Worley said the park could be used by anyone from a person in a wheelchair to a professional skater. She said the finished park will also feature artwork and obstacles specifically designed for people with autism.

“The $50,000 in grant money, combined with some matching funds, will give us what we need to start Phase 1 of the project,” Worley said.

For more information on the A.skate Foundation, visit www.askate.org.

“A.skate is my way to give back to other parents,” Worley said. “I really can’t take credit for it though, because my two sons are the inspiration for everything I do.”