This post is from Autism Speaks Staffer Ali Dyer who has an older brother with autism. You can find out more about her family here. Ali writes about an inspiring autism dad named Izzy Paskowitz who started the group Surfers Healing. Are you a DAD-vocate like Izzy? Let us know at ASBTB2014@gmail.com!
A while back, I headed to Los Angeles for the inaugural Light Up the Blues concert hosted by Autism Speaks and Stephen and Kristen Stills. It was a hip crowd with some great talent and I was psyched to be there. As a mingled about, I got into conversation with this man who had wild hair and tattoos all over. I could tell he was a guy who really gets after it, having a glow of someone who enjoys life to the fullest. His name was Izzy Paskowitz and I knew that we would be fast friends.
Izzy comes from one of the first families of surfing. Doc, his father, is a pioneer in the surf world and he instilled a love of the ocean in his nine children, chasing waves being a cornerstone of their education. I won’t even try detailing their adventures, you have to grab Izzy’s book Scratching the Horizon for that! His unconventional upbringing is part of what makes him so open and interested in everyone he meets.
Izzy is an incredible surfer and has competed at the highest levels in the sport, receiving endorsement deals left and right. He fell madly in love with his beautiful wife Danielle and they created a family together, having three children Elah, Isaiah, and Elijah. Their life changed though when their son Isaiah was diagnosed with autism.
I can only imagine what it is like as a parent to hear an autism diagnosis, especially in the days when awareness was lacking. One day, Isaiah was having a meltdown of sorts on the beach, and Izzy put him on his surfboard and paddled out. Calmness overcame Isaiah, which was something Izzy didn’t necessarily expect. At that moment, their relationship changed, a common ground was established out in the water, and with that Surfers Healing was born.
Their mission states “Through the transformative experience of surfing, Surfers Healing attains greater mainstream acceptance for both the families of and the kids living with autism. People seem to have a lot of pre-conceived ideas about what kids with autism can or can't do. We're here to change those notions forever. Surfers Healing has spent the last fifteen years taking children with autism surfing. Our goal is to help foster the understanding and acceptance of autism.” Izzy and Danielle are magnetic, welcoming us all with warm hearts and contagious smiles.
His model gives individuals and families ‘One Perfect Day,’ totally free of charge. The feeling that you get from being at these camps is invigorating and lasts way longer than 24 hours; I can attest that vida doesn’t leave you, but it is something you have to see to believe. He is a superstar advocate not only for his son, but all those affected by autism. He has found a way to use skill and passion to help others.
In an excerpt from his book, Izzy says, “I realized that what Isaiah and I needed was for me to dedicate myself to taking autistic kids out surfing, to making them smile, to making their hearts leap, to making them realize what it felt like to soar.”
Thank you Isaiah for being you; forcing people like your dad and I to dig a little deeper, challenging us to see what splendor lies beneath the surface and to become better people(Also congrats on your recent Special Olympics Gold Medal in swimming!! ROCK ON!!!).
Izzy, thank you for your friendship to me and the thousands of families you have touched over the years. You are one in a million.