It seemed to many that our days of outdoor adventuring would be over. As it turns out, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. We whisked our son away with us on all of our outdoor adventures. Sure we had to modify or scale back on some of our trips, but we certainly didn’t slow down. Over time, our son grew to love the outdoors as much as we did.
When our new son finally came home in early 2011, we wasted no time in introducing him to the outdoors–something he’d never known behind orphanage walls. It took time to even build up to a nature walk in the park. I’m not sure how else to describe his initial reaction to nature, however, other than to say it was truly magical. With a diagnosis of autism and significant cognitive delay, and the fact that he had much trauma to overcome from his previous life, daily life could be a huge struggle. He hoarded food. He exploded into a mess of violence over the smallest of matters. Riding in the car made him sick and dizzy. He sobbed and moaned throughout each night out of fear and grieving. But outdoors, everything was different. In fact, everything became much better for all of us. The quietness of nature calmed our son’s sensory system. The rich sensory environment provided just the right amount of input for him. The freedom to explore ignited his sense of wonder. Outdoors, it seemed as if he could conquer the world.
We make adaptations for our special needs son so that he can enjoy the outdoors. His motor skills are delayed and he needs assistance with many tasks. Safety is also a big concern and we make sure to take every precaution imaginable to keep him safe. It can be exhausting, but to me, it is certainly worth the extra effort. So far, our five year old son with special needs enjoys hiking (for now he is carried in a backpack but can hike the non-treacherous areas for a short time), canoeing, caving, horseback riding and indoor rock climbing. We are brainstorming new ideas about how to keep him safe as he grows older. I am constantly finding that my son is capable of much more than I give him credit for. Just a few weekends ago I ran the Columbia Mini Muddy Buddy race with my two sons. My son with special needs completed the run with my assistance. As we crossed the finish line hand-in-hand, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears for my son who has overcome so much in his short life.
Dear reader, I do not know what your story may be. But what I do know is that no matter the obstacles that may be present in your life, adventure truly is within your grasp. The outdoors belong to us all. In fact, last month I created a hiking group in my community for families with special needs children. So far the experience has been truly wonderful and has only further confirmed my belief that outdoor adventure is for all. No excuses–get outside and find your own adventure!
Lauren (aka Hiking Mama) is a lover of nature, avid hiker, outdoor junkie, former biochemist and a mama to two boys adopted from across the globe–one who happens to have autism. She fiercely believes that adventure is for all. You will find Lauren blogging about all of her family’s adventures at Hike.Blog.Love.