University co-hosts surfing camp for autistic children

While many children will spend spring break sitting on the couch watching television, a group of kids diagnosed with autism will be hitting the waves at Miami Beach.

In coordination with the Miami Beach Parks and Recreation Department, the University of Miami and Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD) will be hosting the first annual surfing camp for children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism in which the children do not suffer from delay in language learning or cognitive development.

The camp will begin on March 31, during Miami-Dade County public schools’ spring break.

In the program, campers will learn how to surf, snorkel, explore marine life and study basic oceanography and meteorology.

“Surfing helps children with autism relax and is also a very good form of therapy for them,” said Maricarmen Saleta, educational support specialist at UM-NSU CARD. “This will also allow them to work on their social skills. We hope that they will learn and make friends at the same time.”

The Autism Society of America says autism is a neurological disorder that affects the brain’s normal functions, including social interaction and communication skills.

Aside from making friends and working on their social skills, the campers will also be playing games and attending a special lunch and awards ceremony on the last day.

The group of 10 children, all between the ages of 9 and 15, were recruited for the program based on their diagnoses with high functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Priority was also given to Miami Beach residents and those registered with CARD.

This is not the first time that UM-NSU CARD has hosted programs for autistic children. In the past, the center has held summer camps, beach parties for families, movie nights and Christmas parties. For this year’s spring break camp, UM-NSU CARD was inspired by a similar surfing camp program for autistic children in California.

When they are not running free programs, UM-NSU CARD provides services, such as educational and psychological services, to nearly 4,000 individuals with autism living in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties. These services and other research initiatives also extend to their families and the professionals who serve them.

For more information about this event or UM-NSU CARD, please visit or call 1-800-AUTISM, ext.1.

Natalie Riera may be contacted at