'Learning Difficulties' is an umbrella term used to describe a wide spectrum of difficulties resulting from a variety of conditions. These can range from learning difficulties associated with cerebral palsy or Down’s Syndrome to Asperger’s, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or dyspraxia. Many of these conditions can result in difficulties with movement, coordination, speech and cognition.
(The above information is used courtesy of www.open.ac.uk
Of course, every person with a learning difficulty will have very individual needs but if you are or know a skier with learning difficulties you may find the general information below useful.
A person with learning difficulties can ski and enjoy the mountains with family and friends! Ski 2 Freedom has many clients who have discovered the joys of the snow and magic of the mountains. Most ski schools have qualified instructors who have experience in working with children and adults with learning difficulties.
Confidence on the snow is the key issue and it is well worth investing in the excellent private tuition that is on offer by the ski schools. Once the person has gained the basic skills then there is no reason why the family cannot all ski together- it is also a good idea to return to the same ski resort for a couple of winters just to maintain that special relationship and new found confidence.
Your initial enquiry to the ski school should include as much background information on the skier as possible. If the skier has skied before, it can be incredibly useful to dig out old photographs or even video footage of them skiing previously to send to the ski school so that they can get a good idea of their level. Discussing in detail the skier’s specific needs and condition(s) is VITAL to ensure both the ski school and you know what is going to happen and to ensure you are matched with the right ski instructor and/or equipment. This may include a discussion about other associated health and social needs such as epilepsy, asthma, communication and social awareness skills and any recent medical developments.
In some cases when a child is new to the slopes or not a very confident skier or there are mobility issues, then why not have an hour or so on the piste with a qualified ski instructor 1:1, then take the opportunity hiring the instructor to whizz your child around the slopes with the rest of the family using a Tandemski or sit-ski (dual ski pilot) - he or she gets the chance to relax a bit and be with brothers, sisters, parent and friends! A lot of fun and laughter can be had!
Many of the ski schools have a good idea of what is required especially when it comes to equipment and clothing, in particular the ski boots. Do ensure that you ask the ski school if they can recommend a ski hire shop for such items. As skiing requires wearing ‘not every day’ clothing such as helmets, gloves and goggles etc. it might be worth trying these items at home so that the skier can get used to them and feel as comfortable as possible on the first ski day. Whether special ski equipment is required will depend on the degree of the disability, but fundamental to the experience will be a good knowledge and understanding of the skier’s needs so that a trusting relationship can be developed between instructor and pupil.
In Europe, the US, Canada and worldwide there will be ski instructors with experience in teaching those with learning difficulties; therefore it is more than likely that whichever resort you choose there will be someone who will be able to help you. However, going somewhere where skiers with a similar condition have gone before, may well be a source of comfort and reassurance. We are delighted to be able to list below all of those schools, of which we have personal experience (clicking on the link will take you to our Accessible Resort Guide for further information on the ski school and resort) but please note there are many more not listed here: If the resorts below do not yet feature on the Accessible Resort Guide please contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ESF Arcs 2000
ESF Belle Plagne
ESF La Rosiere
ESF Les Gets
ESF Val d’Isere
ESF Val Thorens
Evolution 2 – Tignes
Evolution 2 – Val d’Isere
Oxygene La Plagne
ZigZag International Ski School – Samoens
Active Motion – available most Swiss ski resorts
Handiconcept - Villars
European Snowsports Verbier
Redpoint Adaptive Ski Programme – Zem am Zillar
Freizit – Schladming
Ski 4 All – Zell am See
If you would like information on other ski resorts please contact us.
We are delighted to be able to share information and feedback from families who ski and understand the problems associated with learning difficulties on our Personal Stories page
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