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Climbing with People with Down Syndrome


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Fritz N. · · Durango, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 115

My older brother Carl is an utterly righteous dude. He also happens to have Down Syndrome. A little while ago, I had the privilege of belaying him on his first outdoor rock climb at Hartman Rocks in Gunnison, CO.

 

He works at a YMCA in Indiana. He climbs plastic there occasionally, but much prefers to lift weights and swim laps. I set up a toprope on a 5.6 at Teenage Wasteland and let him have at it. Carl has a few extra pounds on him, so it was a challenge, but after thirty minutes of pulling hard, my bro slapped the chains. He had a great time and said he wasn't scared at all. When we asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate his accomplishment, he replied "Taco Bell!"

I was inspired and thought I'd share the stoke. Anyone else take people with developmental disabilities climbing? I really like what Paradox does and am planning to volunteer for them in Ouray this winter. 

Carl is a goofball. Every day of the year is Halloween for him -- Samson is his favorite character. His classic move is that anytime he sees a pillar, he pushes against it and bellows "Let me die with the Philistines!"

Adam Password · · Timbuktu · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 0

That's awesome man! We used to teach children with mental disabilities horse back riding. It definitely gave them something to look forward to interacting with a large animal. 

mikejohnson1 Johnson · · Essex Junction, VT · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 345

Carl is a goofball. Every day of the year is Halloween for him -- Samson is his favorite character. His classic move is that anytime he sees a pillar, he pushes against it and bellows "Let me die with the Philistines!"

This brought a smile to my face. What a cool story!

pforien · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 5

Really cool! Thanks for sharing

Andrew Krajnik · · Plainfield, IL · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 277

Outstanding! My youngest brother has autism, but is nowhere near as active as he used to be. He's in his late 20's now. When he was in his teens, he'd spend every possible moment on his bike. Alas, he doesn't really show much interest in being active any more, and he's not communicative enough to be able to harness him up and let him try climbing. It's truly unfortunate, because I think the sensory stimulus would be great for him.

Fritz N. · · Durango, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 115
Andrew Krajnik wrote:

Outstanding! My youngest brother has autism, but is nowhere near as active as he used to be. He's in his late 20's now. When he was in his teens, he'd spend every possible moment on his bike. Alas, he doesn't really show much interest in being active any more, and he's not communicative enough to be able to harness him up and let him try climbing. It's truly unfortunate, because I think the sensory stimulus would be great for him.

I used to be a personal caregiver for people with disabilities, including many people diagnosed with autism. What if you were to run a second toprope and climb next to him? Maybe gym bouldering to get the idea for upward movement?

Tyler Metheney · · St Louis · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

You da man Carl! Love seeing stuff like this. :-)

Abram Herman · · Grand Junction, CO · Joined May 2009 · Points: 20

Awesome, your brother looks STOKED!

I used to volunteer with NSCD a lot (National Sports Center for the Disabled) but they were really flaky and I stopped volunteering with them after I had to constantly pester them to be notified of volunteer opportunities. I'm not sure if they switched to just staff-run events or what, but I really enjoyed working with those groups; it was for people with both physicial and developmental disabilities.

I currently volunteer with Climbing For Life which is an awesome program, but we don't really get groups with developmental and physical disabilities like NSCD. We do get a lot of at-risk youth though, and it's a great organization to volunteer with if anyone is interested in doing something like this.

I'm also on the advisory board for Autism Climbs, which is another great organization geared specifically towards getting kids with autism out climbing; climbing has so many mental, emotional, social and physical benefits to help kids with autism overcome some of the struggles they deal with. We have an event coming up on 8/20 at ABC Kids Climbing in Boulder, if anyone is interested in bringing kids with autism and their families, and if you want to volunteer we can always use more one on one attention with the kids! The Daily Camera did a nice story on one of our previous events, if you want an idea of what it's like: http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_30806918/autism-climbs-introduces-kids-spectrum-joy-climbing

Will Haden · · KC, MO · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 90

This is awesome! 

Fritz N. · · Durango, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 115
Kat Hessen wrote:

Thanks for making climbing accessible to more diverse groups of people! 

Thanks, Kat. I wouldn't be half the person I am today had I not grown up with Carl as my older brother. I hope everyone has the opportunity to spend some time with people who are differently abled and get a glimpse of how they see the world. 

After Carl was born, the doctor walked up to my mom as she was holding him and asked if she wanted the hospital to feed him or not. She's a meek and mild pastor's wife, but she told that doctor to go fuck himself. She felt horrible afterward, but I'm glad she said it that way. One of my favorite stories of my mom ;-)

SThal · · Logan, UT · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 140
Fritz N. wrote:

she told that doctor to go fuck himself. 

Yes! Your mom is my hero.

I used to work at a camp in Montana where the first week with campers was what we called DD camp (developmentally disabled adults). The camp was a pretty inaccessible and rustic place, but for many of the campers who lived in group homes, it was the highlight of their year. And some of them had been coming for over 30 years. It was one of the highlights of my life to be part of that. I learned a lot from people who had different experiences of daily life than me and had faced significant adversity. We didn't do any climbing but there was hiking. I think your brother would fit right in there. http://christikon.org/

Alicia Sokolowski · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 1,075

This thread makes me so happy! You, your brother and your mom make a great team. You restored my faith in humanity! 

Todd Bruns · · Golden , Colorado · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 0

Awesome dude. We need more people like you in this world. 

RKM · · Alpine, Utah and Almo, Idaho · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 1,440

I have to join in and say that my little buddy and 25 year old son goes everywhere with me.  He has the shoes, harness and chalk bag and even though rarely gets to high off the ground - considers it full-on climbing.  He is low functioning as far as the broad spectrum of Downs (I'm pretty low functioning myself), but all the more endearing to be around.  Most people that spend much time at City of Rocks or Castle Rocks have met him and been touched by him.  

Joseph Henry Miller, but we call him 'Pete'

Fritz N. · · Durango, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 115
RKM wrote:

I have to join in and say that my little buddy and 25 year old son goes everywhere with me. 

Superb. Thanks for sharing! :-) 

Russ Keane · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 145

We are so lucky to have our full capabilities.  Good to remember.

Bob M · · Alpharetta, GA · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 45

Great thread!  My daughter has a number of challenges, but goes on most of our climbing trips.  Here we are on the parking lot ledge at Looking Glass, NC.  I think that was her first big multi-pitch climb.  

And she never lets me forget to stop at Dolly's for ice cream on the way out of the forest, after a day of climbing.  

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456

No experience climbing with people with Down Syndrome or Autism but some working with them in school. I was a trouble maker in middle school so they shipped me off to the CDC room where I would teach math and reading to middle schoolers and high schoolers with varying severity of Down Syndrome and kids all across the Autism spectrum. I really enjoyed it and had somewhat of a knack for it too.

Those kids had the kindest hearts out of any people I've ever come across in my life. They had no dislike or hate in their hearts for anybody or anything and it was quite inspiring to be around them, especially in contrast to your typical middle school kid.

andrew.reed · · Manitou Springs, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 35

My local gym CityRock has a climbing team designed for children with mental and physical disabilities.  I volunteer with them and give out belays and motivation to kids as we work with them one on one.  Some of these kids can top rope 5.10- no problem! Really cool to see them get psyched and apply their focus to such a healthy and rewarding activity! 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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