Ascendigo’s Adventures Returns from the Alps!

BY MATTHEW MCCABE, ADVENTURES CO-DIRECTOR

A few months ago, Ascendigo’s Adventures Department received quite an interesting request. A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) in Saudi Arabia was looking for a ski instructor who understood how to teach sports to someone on the autism spectrum. She had been consistently disappointed by the level of sports instruction provided to her client with autism.
The family was returning to the largest ski resort in the world, Courchevel, in France. They loved everything about their winter vacations in the Alps — the food, accommodations, and skiing are all world-class. Their large extended family has nearly 10 local instructors working for them when they are in Courchevel. However, there was no ski instructor (out of 6,000) who was capable and qualified to properly instruct the youngest member of their family who is impacted with ASD.

Ascendigo to the rescue! 
The BCBA had interviewed a number of adaptive sports organizations and felt Ascendigo was the clear choice based on our extensive experience and evidence-based autism teaching strategies.
My Saudi Arabian student was 6 years old. English was his first language, however his expressive language was limited. He is a very happy-go-lucky kiddo. He is used to being pushed hard to work, and he is eager to please his instructor. He was motivated by praise, high fives, and big sensory squeezes. The lesson did present many challenges though: new family, new culture, new mountain, new terrain, and new student. However, as one of Ascendigo’s most senior ski instructors, I was eager for the challenge. After getting to know the kiddo and the new mountain for the first few days, the lesson quickly started gaining momentum. By the end of the 8 days, the new skier was loving every run and giggling at every turn. After fading some adaptive equipment, the student was skiing independently and making turns in both directions. The family was thrilled with the progress and really blown away by the Individualized Lesson Plan (ILP) and Data Collection (PDC) that was presented to them at the end of the trip. They have already extended an invitation to have Ascendigo come back to continue the progression next year, and the ski school in France is beginning to see the benefit of autism-specific training for its instructors.
Onward and Upward!

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