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PostPosted: January 24th, 2010, 10:27 am 
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Location: North Bay, Ontario
I thought I would start a thread where people can share their experiences and tips about canoe tripping with disabled (mentally and/or physically) kids. To get the conversation started I'll talk about some of my own experience.

I have a 14 year old son who is severely autistic and pretty much non-verbal. He is also fairly hyperactive. Physically he is OK and is actually quite coordinated at some things. On the other hand, some seemingly simple things, like tying shoes, seem to be beyond him.

We have canoed with him since he was a baby. When he was a toddler he was very difficult to control in a canoe which made it difficult since he would be moving around all the time. He also loved to touch the water which meant he would be trying to lean over the side all the time, a bit nerve racking in a canoe. For a while we used a big 2 person kayak (Folbot) with him because it is so stable and he could reach the water sitting down.

Now he is a big boy, but he doesn't run around the canoe the way he used to. We seat him in the middle on a small box, and he has a paddle so he can paddle if he wants to. Mostly he just drags the paddle. This summer we did a trip with 2 canoes, with my son and I sharing one. I put him in the front seat and hoped he would become a more active paddler. Unfortunately, that didn't work so well and he will only paddle in short bursts. I think he just doesn't see the point of it: he knows the canoe will keep moving whether he paddles or not.

As a consequence our trips are short in terms of distance as we are quite slow. We are either a very heavily loaded single canoe or 2 underpowered canoes. Similarly on portages he has to be guided across and he won't carry more than a light pack. This means that one of us has to stay with him always and the other ends up making several trips.

He used to run away a lot and that made campsite choice important. We almost always camped on islands or at least sites where we could easily watch him. Not such a problem these days but he still has to be watched every minute of every hour of every day.

Sleeping arrangements are becoming a problem. This past summer the three of us shared a single tent but we would really like to graduate him to his own tent. We will try that this summer I guess. Maybe some sort of a divided or 2 room tent? Is there anything like that on the market that is suitable for canoeing?

He loves to swim and is fortunately a good swimmer. He used to just strike off across the lake and we were constantly paddling out to herd him back to shore. He is somewhat better now but it is still a problem.

One issue that has come up in recent years is noise. While he is non-verbal that does not mean he is quiet: he likes to scream and howl and make various indescribable loud noises, and it is difficult or impossible to quiet him sometimes. Consequently we try to camp in isolated spots because we know the noise will be annoying to others. This summer we were camped on a small lake and I didn't realize there was another group camped behind an island. They must have thought we were extreme partiers from all the whooping and hollering coming from our camp. Now if anyone looks to be camping nearby I paddle over and explain the situation. Needless to say, nobody likes to go canoeing with us.

To be honest I am not sure that he likes canoeing that much, but we do and at least it gets him out of the house. It is one of the few activities we can do together and enjoy as a family.

Well, that's a start and I would be interested in any experiences with disabled kids that others have had. (please don't get offended by my terminology, use whatever you prefer). Maybe share some tips with regard to paddling arrangements, tents and sleeping arrangements, things to do and places to go. Or, just talk about your own experience or what you have seen and heard.

Kinguq.


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PostPosted: January 24th, 2010, 12:00 pm 
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That is super you take him canoing. I firmly believes he gets a lot of it on a variety of levels.

It sounds like you have adjusted & worked out any issues. You are an expert. I can relate to the sleeping situation. I have only worked with a handful of girls with developmental disabilities but it was a challenge to keep them safe sometimes, especially sleeping time. I would say the 2 compartment tent would be the way to go as a first step. Not sure about weight but it might be worth the piece of mind.

My only other thought was you or Mom sleeping in one of those netted hammocks by the door of his tent, strategically located so you would wake up if he came out of the tent. They are expensive, you have the issue of having a spot for the hammock, and not sure how you feel about hammocks. :)

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PostPosted: January 24th, 2010, 12:44 pm 
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Hi,
A sea kayaking friend of mine started up a group/very small business linked below. She is a Montessori school teacher and focuses on abilities. She'd be a great information source if you have any specific questions...
http://www.paddlesandboots.net/componen ... /Itemid,1/
Melissa


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PostPosted: January 24th, 2010, 4:25 pm 
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It's great that you can take your son out on family canoe trips. It sounds like he enjoys swimming. I can appreciate the kind of stress you would be under in keeping him safe out there.

My only experience with autistic kids has been as passengers on my school bus and I have found ways to deal with some of the behaviours that effected their safety or others around them. But like Mystical said, you are the expert. All I can offer is asking if you have looked into National Service Dogs? They train dogs specifically for children with autism. The dogs have a calming influence and act as an anchor to stop bolting.

It was just two weeks ago I heard an interview on the radio with the director of NSD and I have been considering volunteering by adopting a puppy and caring for it until it's serious training starts. Although some would think a dog would add stress, in the right family they apparently have been a huge asset to peace of mind and can influence development of the children. My own golden retriever was on his first canoe trip this past summer and adapted quickly.

http://www.nsd.on.ca/

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PostPosted: January 24th, 2010, 5:55 pm 
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A very interesting topic, although I can't add anything as I've never been in these types of situations, I will read with great interest.

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PostPosted: January 24th, 2010, 6:18 pm 
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I took an adaptive paddling endorsement a few years ago.

We were teamed with one adult and one client to adapt the paddling experience for the client. Most had some sort of physical disability but we were taught to identify the functional disabilities of the client and not just the name for the condition.

I had a traumatic brain injury client. Together we designed s way to address his balance problems, his dropping the paddle problem , his instant nap problem( not sure this is a problem!) , and his limited motion on one side(those were the functional disabilities.

It took several hours to outfit the canoe and the paddle had to be short..remember the naps. Yet he had such a look of joy to be out paddling.

One month prior he had almost been declared dead at an accident.. The following month he graduated high school and walked across the stage on his own.

I don't know who got more out of that workshop..him or me..it was a great experience.

Your son is telling you what he needs and you are paying attention. I agree that the biggest problem might be the bolting..Hammocks are about $150 each.

This kind of bothers me
Quote:
Needless to say, nobody likes to go canoeing with us.


This is sad. Is there any kind of autism society where families with autistic kids can meet? OTOH this seems like something you have already researched.

And your experiences seem to be changing each year as your son gets older.


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PostPosted: January 25th, 2010, 6:50 pm 
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Thanks for the encouraging comments and advice. I was hoping that there would be more parents like me out there with whom to share ideas and maybe commiseration, but that seems not to be the case, at least on this forum. Is taking disabled kids canoeing so rare? Maybe so...

Melissa wrote:
Hi,
A sea kayaking friend of mine started up a group/very small business linked below. She is a Montessori school teacher and focuses on abilities. She'd be a great information source if you have any specific questions...
http://www.paddlesandboots.net/componen ... /Itemid,1/
Melissa


Interesting about the kayaking idea and this is something we have tried. A few years back my other son and I built a touring kayak, a smallish sea kayak really. Then last year we got the idea of trying Eric in the kayak. We were at a cottage and we got him in the kayak beside the dock. He immediately took off at very high speed. We jumped in the waiting canoe, with which we had planned to guide him, and took off after him. Unfortunately the hull speed of the kayak was somewhat faster than that of the beat-up Grumman we were using, and it took us quite a while of hard paddling to overhaul him. A lesson learned.

So kayaking is a possibility, but it has its downsides. He tends to paddle for a while then lose interest completely, requiring a "sag wagon". If we take him in tow he won't paddle at all. Also I dislike using a kayak in canoe country, they are so difficult to portage, load and unload, get in and out of, etc.

splashdancer wrote:
It was just two weeks ago I heard an interview on the radio with the director of NSD and I have been considering volunteering by adopting a puppy and caring for it until it's serious training starts. Although some would think a dog would add stress, in the right family they apparently have been a huge asset to peace of mind and can influence development of the children. My own golden retriever was on his first canoe trip this past summer and adapted quickly.


We had a dog up until a year ago, a gorgeous sled dog who passed on at the ripe age of 17. Eric is not particularly interested in dogs and is afraid of some. While I am sure they are very beneficial for some kids, they don't seem to be for him.

littleredcanoe wrote:
This kind of bothers me
Quote:
Needless to say, nobody likes to go canoeing with us.


This is sad. Is there any kind of autism society where families with autistic kids can meet? OTOH this seems like something you have already researched.


Yes I am heavily involved in the various associations in town. Unfortunately nobody seems to do canoe tripping with their kids.

I think that, much as they might not like to admit it, disabled people tend to make others uncomfortable, at least until they become accustomed. Also, older children lack the "cute" factor of the younger ones, and we have noticed a real change in attitudes as our son gets older. Sad but true...

In any case I hope others with experience chime in, this thread seems to by dying a rapid death!

Regards,

Kinguq.


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PostPosted: January 25th, 2010, 8:45 pm 
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I have worked with a few kids of various disabliities in various sports baseball, hockey, and a couple in kayak.
Only one in baseball with a similar problem as yours.
And yes there was more problems with adults then with the kids who played along side. (even when you explained to the parents before the start of the game.... :( )
Keep asking questions and trying different things, you will find answers in the strangest places.
I had one child in hockey who had to wear braces on his ankles to walk and even that took great effort, and he wanted to play hockey, but could barely go 3 strides with out falling down.
It took 3 months of asking various people and finnally I wa talking to a minor league pro who tied his skates a little different, explained what I was doing and he was more than happy to help. I tried his system first and found it releived my knee pain to the point I could take off the knee brace I was wearing to skate. Needless to say it worked for the kid, he was still not fast but the falling down only happened when he was trying sharp turns, and yes when we meet he is still ever so happy about those times, he is 21 now, and had an operation to help correct the ankle problem when he had stopped growing, therapy took a long time and he is looking forward to playing hockey in a disabled league.
May I suggust that you try one of those sit on angler kayaks,
since he likes to swim he may relish the independance.
Down side you may have to lock the kayak at night if he likes it. :thumbup:
Tell an outfitter what you are up to and maybe you can secure a freebee for a weekend, or make a post on one of the forums.
(kayak angler would be a good one)
Same thing explain as you have here and I am sure you will get some offers of help.
Instruction is a different beast as I am sure you know, but once you know what interests him adapt the teaching skills and see if we have anyone else has some tips.
I wish you well on this,
Jeff

Edit add on and after thought.
Why wait for spring, see if you can work out an indoor pool session, and use your local association to try it as a feeler for a new activity for the autistic community.

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PostPosted: January 26th, 2010, 7:59 am 
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I started back-country tripping with my sons when they were 4 and 6. Our 4 year old was born with Spina Bifida, resulting in a variety of issues that we had to deal with. As you have, we found ways to overcome the issues and continue to paddle and camp. Over time it became too onerous for our son and he opted out of doing these trips with us. I was really dissappointed that he was not joining my oldest son and I, so we found a way for him to join in again. Last year we took our travel trailer to a PP, along with our canoes. Having the trailer provided him with the privacy he needed to do his medical procedures in comfort. We still got out paddling and fishing and had a great time. He even invited a friend along. He's 19 now and it's great that we found a way to overcome his challenges and continue this family tradition, even if not in the original format. At the end of the day, it's not about the format, but about the relationship that's forged.

I've been involved in organizations as well, but what I found was that although we share many of the same trials and frustrations, every situation is so very unique. Keep doing what you're doing. Modify your plans as need be. And most of all, persevere. Remember: Everything happens for a reason.

God Bless.

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PostPosted: January 26th, 2010, 8:26 am 
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Quote:
So kayaking is a possibility, but it has its downsides. He tends to paddle for a while then lose interest completely, requiring a "sag wagon". If we take him in tow he won't paddle at all. Also I dislike using a kayak in canoe country, they are so difficult to portage, load and unload, get in and out of, etc.


There is something called a pack canoe that we have had some threads on. Basically its a deckless kayak.

Some of them are expensive. Hornbeck boats are not. You can build one too. Here is an example.

http://www.clcboats.com/shop/boats/cano ... e-kit.html

I dont know if this is of interest to you or would work in your situation but I thought I might throw it into the mix given that you have already built a boat.


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PostPosted: January 26th, 2010, 10:23 am 
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kinguq wrote:

So kayaking is a possibility, but it has its downsides. He tends to paddle for a while then lose interest completely, requiring a "sag wagon". If we take him in tow he won't paddle at all. Also I dislike using a kayak in canoe country, they are so difficult to portage, load and unload, get in and out of, etc.

Kinguq.


Canoe tripping wouldn't have to be all about a linear or loop trip with portages. I don't know where you tend to trip but larger lakes with islands and irregular shorelines with bays can be chosen providing multiple nights at different campsites. This would elimnate the hassle of portaging and the option of adjusting distance/days. Just a thought.

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PostPosted: January 30th, 2010, 10:14 am 
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Thanks again for the suggestions and stories.
bgiroux wrote:
There is something called a pack canoe that we have had some threads on. Basically its a deckless kayak.

Some of them are expensive. Hornbeck boats are not. You can build one too. Here is an example.

http://www.clcboats.com/shop/boats/cano ... e-kit.html

I dont know if this is of interest to you or would work in your situation but I thought I might throw it into the mix given that you have already built a boat.


Actually I have always secretly lusted after one of those tiny light pack canoes. But I have never considered one for Eric. Hmm, might be something worth considering. And if he doesn't like it, I guess I'd have to use it...

bgiroux wrote:
I was really dissappointed that he was not joining my oldest son and I, so we found a way for him to join in again.


Thanks bgiroux for that story. It's great that you have found a way to get outdoors with your whole family again.

splashdancer wrote:
Canoe tripping wouldn't have to be all about a linear or loop trip with portages. I don't know where you tend to trip but larger lakes with islands and irregular shorelines with bays can be chosen providing multiple nights at different campsites. This would elimnate the hassle of portaging and the option of adjusting distance/days. Just a thought.


We have already gone a long way down that road. Given my choice we would be paddling northern rivers on multiweek tours, but that just isn't going to happen. So we have modified our tripping style a lot and it is now more like what you describe. I still like to be able to portage because everything is always nicer at the puffing end of the portage. My goal is to keep canoe tripping something that is fun and relaxing for all of us, which has and does involve some modification in tripping style.

Best regards,

Kinguq.


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PostPosted: February 12th, 2010, 11:25 am 
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Melissa wrote:
Hi,
A sea kayaking friend of mine started up a group/very small business linked below. She is a Montessori school teacher and focuses on abilities. She'd be a great information source if you have any specific questions...
http://www.paddlesandboots.net/componen ... /Itemid,1/
Melissa

I had the great fortune to meet Pauline Halstead last night at the Reel Paddling Film Festival in Toronto....has a great program for "all ages and all abilities"....can only see her unique program growing....great energy and very dedicated to this work
Mike

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PostPosted: February 16th, 2010, 10:05 pm 
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Hi pls check out campwinston.com this is an excelent camp for special needs kids. my son Isaak has gone there for 6 years.
and while they have not had him on extended camping trips there services are excelent. the camp is clean and very well staffed, and the food is well prepaired and they try to source localy... norman k.

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PostPosted: February 24th, 2010, 10:47 am 
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kinguq,

Hi; pake here. Interesting topic.

Respectfully, I'd like to offer the following.....

Welcome to Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting! After months of eager anticipation the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says,

“Welcome to Holland."

“Holland?!? you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy. But there’s been a change in the flight plan.


They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.


The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place. So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.


But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy…and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there.


And for the rest of you life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.


And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away…because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss. But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland.

Copyright ©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley - All rights reserved.


My beautiful bride of 42 years, M, and I have been engaged in therapeutic foster care for over 25 years. We specialize in behavioral or medically challenged kids, including those with fetal alcohol or other mood disorders. What that means is that our lives have taken twists and turns which we had never anticipated nor predicted. When visiting with friends or family, we have found it difficult to convey our experiences or even find common ground. Some days we wonder whether anyone else even speaks the same language. And, from time to time we yearn for "normalcy", whatever that is.

But we too have Windmills and Tulips and a host of life changing experiences which have enriched us beyond our wildest dreams.

And we paddle occasionaly......... :thumbup:

pake

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