Autistic son just getting started


Original Post
Tim Lau · · Hendersonville, NC · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

My nearly 10 year old is a high functioning autistic kid. (aka Aspergers). In nearly any social setting he is awkward, uncomfortable and that ";weird"; kid that tends to get picked on or simply shunned by his peers. He's high functioning enough that most people don't ";see"; an issue, mostly because he's worked his butt off to cope with stuff.

But, you get that kid to a crag and he just flies up the wall. He gets totally chilled out and it's like he's a completely different kid. The confidence boost he gets is awesome, but more importantly he gets an amazing sense of calm just hanging out at the top of a climb and taking in the scene.

We've been out with a guide service (huge thumbs up to foxmountainguides.com) several times. The guides have said (sincerely, I believe) that he has a natural talent beyond simply enjoying the sport.

So, I'm stoked about helping him continue. Problem is, I've never climbed and the guide services run ~$150-200/day. So, we'll need to start venturing out on our own soon.

At this point, I'm comfortable (after working with the guides) with TR and lead belay. I'm getting comfortable setting TR anchors at well established, bolted, routes.

So, in this situation....

- does anyone else have specific experience to share regarding HFA/Aspergers kids and climbing?
- do *I* need to learn to climb in order to help him get better, or is being a good belayer and cheerleader enough? I'm 44, 6'4"; 265#....fluffy but not totally out of shape.
- of course this will ";depend";.....but is there any etiquette at the crag concerning asking for help, advice, assistance? Or even asking if he can follow a trad or sport lead? He has unclipped rope from protection while following the guides but has not cleaned any pro to this point.
- generally speaking, are newbs and kids encouraged or scorned at the crag? I'd like to think we're courteous and respectful of other's time/space.
- we've connected with, but not had opportunity climb with, a local group

Please.....set aside the safety and ";know what you're doing, people can get killed"; stuff for now. I have no desire to get my kid hurt, so we can all be assured that we won't venture out until the time is right.

Matt Carroll · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 5

This is awesome!

There are some really good books out there that cover the information you need to know to safely operate. Using a guide service is also a fantastic way to accelerate your learning curve so props to you for taking that avenue as well.

Rock climbing: mastering basic skills

Rock climbing anchors: A comprehensive guide

Both of those books are fantastic resources. I'm sure armed with that information you could get comfortable top-roping.

Also, you could post in partner finders for people with similar situations (climbing with kids etc) and maybe find a mentor of sorts.

mark felber · · Wheat Ridge, CO · Joined Jul 2005 · Points: 28

Being a good belayer/cheerleader should be great while he's toproping, although you might have a better understanding of what's going on if you did a little climbing yourself. When he starts leading it would definitely help if you could follow him up a climb and clean the gear, especially on a trad line. The only problem I can see is that by the time he gets into his teens he will quite likely be climbing much harder than you, so following him up stuff won't always be an option.

No specific experience with Asperger's, kids and climbing, but if it helps him as much as you say it does then it's got to be a good thing. Learning to climb with your son sounds like a great way to bond with him, even if he does leave you in the dust after a few years.

The Blueprint Part Dank · · FEMA Region VIII · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 40

A lot of great points in this thread already, and I'm certain there are going to be many more good ones to come. So I'll avoid being redundant by posting my $0.02

However I do want to say this:

YOU ARE AN AMAZING DAD!!!! The fact you're asking these questions, encouraging your child to realize his passions and dreams, that speaks to your character at its deepest, most truthful form. You're a truly great person and I wish you the best of luck and am sending you good vibes as you learn to facilitate this passion for your child

JimL · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2011 · Points: 20

First off, +1 on what Blueprint said, you're an amazing dad. People like you make me happy to be a human.

Have you tried a climbing gym? It might completely ruin the aura he is enjoying while climbing, but its worth a shot. You can just belay him, there is no top rope set up, its just easier than going outside.

If that isn't a good fix, post up on MP in your local area. Give people a chance to read your story, and I bet you'll find many climbers willing to give you an afternoon or more to set you up top roping at the very least. If you lived near me, I'd be offering.

Good luck to you.

Rui Ferreira · · Longmont, CO · Joined Jul 2003 · Points: 784

limiting yourself to top-roping will restrict the number of accessible areas and climbs. In many instances you need to climb to the top in order to set-up the top-rope as opposed to walking around to the top. This means learning to climb yourself, investing in climbing gear, etc.

Finding local partners willing to take the two of you out and lead some climbs sounds like the best way to start and for your son to enjoy climbing and to progress. Of course reading up on how to build anchors and basic climbing craft will also be beneficial.

The climbing community reflects the general population as a whole you have some nice welcoming people and some climbers that you want to stay way from, regardless whether you are beginners or one of you is a child.

Mountain Project has a partner finder feature that lists climbers looking for partners in your area. Your local climbing group should also be a good starting resource.

Another consideration is that most climbing gyms have youth teams or climbing classes, depending on how comfortable your son is amongst other kids his age, doing an activity that he enjoys it might be worthwhile giving it a try.

David Baddeley · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 0

- No specific experience with Asbergers / HFA kids, but climbing attracts significantly more than its fair share of "socially awkward" adults, and is a generally very accepting and welcoming community.
- You don't absolutely *need* to learn to climb, but it would be highly desirable so a) you have a better idea of what it involves b) it will help you get to know and talk to other people to go climbing with - as your son gets better he will need other, more experienced, climbers around to learn from and the best way to achieve that is if you're part of the local community c) you should ideally have the skills to get him and you out of trouble if necessary. You don't need to climb hard though - being able to toprope happily at around 5.8, clean anchors, etc ... is easily achievable and probably a good place to aim for initially. To belaying and building anchors, I'd add abseiling / rapelling and ascending the rope (these are slightly more advanced skills, but should put you in a position to clean any route he gets up).
- asking for advice is pretty much always always OK, concrete help and assistance gets a bit fuzzier. There is a general expectation that people should be self sufficient and responsible for their own safety, so showing up to a crag and asking someone to teach you how to belay is a no-go. Asking about route gradings, positions of anchors, what gear you need etc ... is fine. I generally wouldn't ask strangers if I could follow a lead, although in certain circumstances it might be acceptable to ask the follower if they could tag up your rope and a pair of your draws and replace their rope in the anchor (sport climbs/ bolted anchors) so you can top rope it. This lets them move on to their next climb without waiting for you to do the route, although you would be responsible for retrieving your rope and gear. If someone has set up a top-rope and no-one in their party is climbing on it, it's generally OK to ask if you can take a lap. If you have a toprope setup on one route and another party has one on a nearby, similarly graded, route, offering/asking to switch routes so you both get a chance to toprope without having to go to the efforts of setting an anchor is common.
- this is a bit of a binary thing, kids and newbies are generally encouraged if they a) show respect for peoples gear (don't step on ropes) and b) look like they are capable of taking care of themselves (i.e. not attempting to do things which are unsafe). Knowing the basics of climbing yourself is going to help a lot here, as it will allow you to demonstrate you know what you're doing.

Tim Lau · · Hendersonville, NC · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0
The Blueprint Part Dank wrote:A lot of great points in this thread already, and I'm certain there are going to be many more good ones to come. So I'll avoid being redundant by posting my $0.02 However I do want to say this: YOU ARE AN AMAZING DAD!!!! The fact you're asking these questions, encouraging your child to realize his passions and dreams, that speaks to your character at its deepest, most truthful form. You're a truly great person and I wish you the best of luck and am sending you good vibes as you learn to facilitate this passion for your child
I apprecaite the sentiment, but really I'm not doing anything beyond what most dads do.
Tim Lau · · Hendersonville, NC · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

Great feedback folks, thank you for taking the time!

I'd love to hear from someone with HFA/Aspergers. These kids have some unique needs regarding feedback, dealing with 'failure' and receiving constructive criticism.

Tim Lau · · Hendersonville, NC · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0
David Baddeley wrote:- No specific experience with Asbergers / HFA kids, but climbing attracts significantly more than its fair share of "socially awkward" adults, and is a generally very accepting and welcoming community. - You don't absolutely *need* to learn to climb, but it would be highly desirable so a) you have a better idea of what it involves b) it will help you get to know and talk to other people to go climbing with - as your son gets better he will need other, more experienced, climbers around to learn from and the best way to achieve that is if you're part of the local community c) you should ideally have the skills to get him and you out of trouble if necessary. You don't need to climb hard though - being able to toprope happily at around 5.8, clean anchors, etc ... is easily achievable and probably a good place to aim for initially. To belaying and building anchors, I'd add abseiling / rapelling and ascending the rope (these are slightly more advanced skills, but should put you in a position to clean any route he gets up). - asking for advice is pretty much always always OK, concrete help and assistance gets a bit fuzzier. There is a general expectation that people should be self sufficient and responsible for their own safety, so showing up to a crag and asking someone to teach you how to belay is a no-go. Asking about route gradings, positions of anchors, what gear you need etc ... is fine. I generally wouldn't ask strangers if I could follow a lead, although in certain circumstances it might be acceptable to ask the follower if they could tag up your rope and a pair of your draws and replace their rope in the anchor (sport climbs/ bolted anchors) so you can top rope it. This lets them move on to their next climb without waiting for you to do the route, although you would be responsible for retrieving your rope and gear. If someone has set up a top-rope and no-one in their party is climbing on it, it's generally OK to ask if you can take a lap. If you have a toprope setup on one route and another party has one on a nearby, similarly graded, route, offering/asking to switch routes so you both get a chance to toprope without having to go to the efforts of setting an anchor is common. - this is a bit of a binary thing, kids and newbies are generally encouraged if they a) show respect for peoples gear (don't step on ropes) and b) look like they are capable of taking care of themselves (i.e. not attempting to do things which are unsafe). Knowing the basics of climbing yourself is going to help a lot here, as it will allow you to demonstrate you know what you're doing.
great feedback, thanks. The etiquette around "taking a lap" and asking about following is where I know I'll need to choke down my ego if he's going to have opportunity to go harder routes than I can manage.
Bob M · · Alpharetta, GA · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 25

Tim, first let me also say keep up the good work.

I have a 17 year old daughter who is visually impaired, hearing impaired, and has low muscle tone, but that kid loves everything about climbing. She loves climbing outside, she loves climbing in the gym, she loves being part of the team at the gym, and she has some really nice friends from there. Climbing is a super positive part of her life, so I do everything I can to encourage it.

Our situations are a little different, in that I’ve been climbing for many years, and have the gear and experience to get her up most climbs that are appropriate for her and I know when something is a bad idea. Fox Mountain Guides is top notch and will always strive to make sure you have a good day, but you’ll probably go broke if you hire them every weekend. If there’s a club in your area, that’s probably a good place to meet experienced, helpful people who can show you the ropes.

Your profile shows you live in Hendersonville, so I believe your options for indoor climbing are pretty limited, but it there is anything, I suggest taking advantage of that if you can. It’s way less of a time commitment, so you can probably make it happen more often, and fill in the gaps between outdoor adventures. Obviously there’s tons of outdoor climbing in WNC, but most of it is not top rope friendly, so for many things you need someone to lead the climbs for you until you can do it yourself. Again, this is where a club could be handy.

We live in Atlanta, but do get up to the Brevard area from time to time, so I’d be happy to help out.

Crazymonkey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 154

i think you have a great start, and I think the only thing that could really help your situation is if you learn the sport also! what a great time to experience all the tough mental experiences along with physical experiences you will have. It is a great sport for not only learning by doing, but learning by watching.

since you are already clearly asking the great questions it means you want to be involved. are there obstacles in the way that would stop you from participating in outdoor climbing? im not saying go out and crush 12's but more go an learn lead at a gym by taking the class, and then you would be able to lead up and hang the top rope for your kid.

I would say that learning what he is going through would be a better addition than trying to understand what he is going through, and that he would fly up even more watching dad. My daughter loves to watch me climb and it amazes me everyday what she is capable of holding onto after she watches me climb. kids watch and mimmick everything, so what better way then to "lead" (bad climbing joke) by example and teach/learn from eachother.

I also want to say that it is very impressive for you to come out and ask these valuable questions it means that you have an open mind also and can take input well. I hope you are able to continue your adventures it sounds like your son is going to one heck of a climber!

The Blueprint Part Dank · · FEMA Region VIII · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 40
Tim Lau wrote: great feedback, thanks. The etiquette around "taking a lap" and asking about following is where I know I'll need to choke down my ego if he's going to have opportunity to go harder routes than I can manage.
If you choke it down just once, I think the response you get will make you more willing to do so in the future. I can't imagine any of the climbers I know being anything other than SUPER psyched to accommodate you. A nice, driven dad helping his autistic kiddo go out and straight CRUSH IT on the Rock is about the coolest thing I can think of witnessing at a crag. If you were in CO I'd invite ya'll out to join my friends and I tomorrow in Eldorado canyon.
Faulted Geologist · · Lawrence, KS · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 8

Keep on this track, it will strengthen the bond and the body. Great advice from everyone.

Ozark Mountain a Trailblazers and Satori Expeditions owner Dan Nash throws an Ozark Outdoor Rendezvous at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas every October. I help the SPI certified instructor with a beginner class, and sometimes do intermediate and one on one classes too. Please join us this year on the weekend before All Hallows' Eve. 23rd weekend, right? We show up Thursday night to set up. There are day hikes on Fri, Sat and Sun, climbing class on Fri and Sat, backpacking classes, a film, bonfires, and thousand$ in gear given away in a raffle. You will meet people from all over the Midwest and south east. Join us for fun in the most beautiful area in AR.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/90307020027/

Clint

Tapawingo Markey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 0

Your story kind of reminds me of Clay Marzo, a pro surfer with aspergers. Pretty inspiring stuff and you should look him up if you haven't heard of him.

http://www.grindtv.com/culture/surfer-clay-marzo-on-his-new-book-about-living-with-aspergers/

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 15

A couple of points:

  • Don't pressure your son into leading. It's not for everybody, and there is real danger in lead climbing
  • Be leery about climbing on stranger's ropes and anchors and letting strangers belay.

Have fun and stay safe.
Tim Lau · · Hendersonville, NC · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

In the couple hours I was out coaching my other kid's football game, I had a couple people from this forum contact me with invites to join them.

This forum rocks.

Thanks to all above.

Eplumer400 · · Cleveland, OH · Joined May 2016 · Points: 80

Getting to be an outdated thread but I felt the need to post. First, good on you dad for getting your son out of the house and doing something. My younger brother has Asberger's, ADD, and ODD, so I know what boat you're in. He is violently opposed to anything deemed as work or physical effort, so him showing an interest in climbing is awesome and you should do anything you can to keep him interested in it. Every day I wish my brother showed interest in cars or the outdoors instead of Pokémon and videogames...

Most gyms offer classes on how to belay, lead, etc., and so that my be a good start. Being able to bring your own stuff and getting on the rocks alone will save you considerable money in the long run and you can feel confident and proud of the protection you're giving your son while he's having fun. Don't pressure him into doing anything that you wouldn't do, save for harder routes, but encourage him to test his limits and know that trying and failing valiantly is better than never trying at all.

The Blueprint Part Dank · · FEMA Region VIII · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 40
Tim Lau wrote:In the couple hours I was out coaching my other kid's football game, I had a couple people from this forum contact me with invites to join them. This forum rocks. Thanks to all above.
Sick!!!!
RyanJames · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 445

This is a great forum! Nice work getting your son into climbing! It's a great sport and its individualistic nature might suit your son quite well!

Burcheydawwwwwwg · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 375

So awesome. Makes me smile to hear he really loves it, I met a young man back when he was 11 through the Big Brother program (he's almost 21 now) - sounds like he's very similar to your son. He loves the outdoors for nature observing/etc, but never really took to climbing. That was when he was much younger, maybe I should give it a try again. Your thread is good inspiration. Go get 'em!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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