Surf's Up: Reaching Kids With Autism

Surf Camp For Autistic Children 1
A champion surfer has started a surfing camp for autistic children
For champion surfer Izzy Paskowitz, conquering the crests of the world's tallest waves has always brought a rush. One day, he found it also could bring peace.

His son Isaiah is autistic. Years ago, in the middle of a major tantrum, Paskowitz - in desperation - dragged Isaiah into the ocean water and onto his long board. By the time they reached the break line, the mayhem became magic.

"I could see him giggling on the wave as we rode in, and he just looks like he's happy in the water," says Paskowitz says. "While we were riding that wave, he was normal."

The surfer thought the swells of the sea might soothe other children like his. So he started Surfer's Healing, a camp specifically for autistic kids.

Now in its eighth season, more than 1,000 children participate every year. At the start of the day, the ocean can cause meltdowns. The sensory overload which is typical in autistic kids.

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What does Paskowitz attribute that to?

"It just works," he says. "I think it's just being in the water. It's therapeutic being submersed in the water. You sniff it and you taste it and you hear it and you cram all that activity into one experience."

What does he tell the parents?

"I get a lot of parents who ask 'This isn't dangerous, is it?' Hell yeah, it's dangerous," he says. "Why can't our kids do something dangerous? This is extreme special ed for goodness sake."

The concept of surfing as therapy hasn't been scientifically studied, reports CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes. But for the families here, all the science they need is a smile.

Learn more about Surfer's Healing
FYI: Autism Resources
"You know, from day one, they told us our sons wouldn't be able to do anything. And we've proven them wrong," said Sylvia Lopez. She and husband Ed have three children who are autistic.

"It's no cure," says Paskowitz. "At the end of the day, we're going to take our children home and deal with what we have to deal with everyday."

But today is one day of wonder that, for many of these families, will be enough to make memories to last all year.