Sailing Adventure for Teens with Asperger’s and ADHD Launches This Summer

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The Talisail summer sailing camp helps teens develop social and life skills while experiencing the adventure of sailing a 42-foot vessel.

Standing at the helm of a sailing vessel would be an exciting moment for any teenager, but imagine the sense of accomplishment the child with Asperger’s experiences as the wind catches the sail and they cut through the water at 10 knots. The Talisail program, launching from Bellingham, Washington this July, gives teens who have struggled with social skills the opportunity to be part of a team navigating a beautiful, and huge, 42-foot catamaran.

“Sailing is an inherently team-based, group-oriented activity. One of the basic elements of autism spectrum disorder is a struggle with social functioning. At Talisail, students will learn to socially interact with each other in an effective and appropriate manner, and become more flexible, but the activity is also motivating and fun. Ultimately, our goal is to teach skills and provide the opportunity for a novel adventure experience.” says Peter Weiss, the director of the Talisail program.

The effectiveness of a program such as Talisail lies in the active participation of students in the daily running of the boat. Rather than just telling students to communicate with each other, the idea is for teens to quickly learn through experience that they must communicate effectively with each other because, otherwise, they will never go anywhere without functioning teamwork.

The Talisail program also accepts teens with ADHD because many of these teens also have issues with social interactions. Teens with ADHD are often so high-spirited that they don’t thrive in traditional summer camps. The specialized Talisail adventure helps these teens channel their energy in a fun and productive way.

“Teens with ADHD can also greatly benefit from the natural lessons of a team-based adventure experience like sailing. Task completion is something many kids with ADHD struggle with – and, believe me, we have plenty of tasks for them to complete on the boat. They also have to pay attention. If they are in charge of the helm, steering the boat, they have to make sure to watch out for obstacles, monitor the depth of the water so as not to run aground, and make sure they are holding their course. Of course our staff are closely supervising to keep the students safe, and to support students in being successful in their tasks. It’s difficult for kids with ADHD to maintain focus, so this is a great way to practice, and it’s a lot more fun that doing long division,” explains Peter Weiss.

Experiential adventures have been shown to be highly effective in teaching valuable lessons about natural consequences. Many teens with Asperger’s and ADHD have problems connecting their behavior to resulting consequences. Outdoor adventures require them to follow certain rules and take necessary steps to be comfortable and successful. One of the greatest benefits to these types of teens is the sense of pride and accomplishment they get from successfully completing the challenges inherent in outdoor adventure.

Although some teens with Asperger’s or ADHD may initially resist the idea of summer camp, Peter Weiss reassures parents that the majority of kids have some initial resistance to going away to camp.

“It’s okay to challenge your teenager to do something like this. Many of our parents struggle with the decision to send their child to summer camps because they know their teen struggles with change and transition to new experiences. But it’s important to note that as the majority of our kids have difficulty coming to camp initially, the majority also have a hard time leaving after the fun experience of camp – we expect and manage both of these challenges every summer” Weiss explains.

Participants of Talisail spend eight days living and sailing on a 42-foot catamaran with three highly trained staff and a peer group of four to six other teens. The primary goals of Talisail are to increase pro-social skills, facilitate a positive social experience with peers, and to give the opportunity for an adventure packed with learning, all while having the experience of a lifetime.

Talisail is part of the Talisman summer programs, summer camps that specialize in summer adventures for children, teens, and young adults with ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, high-functioning autism, and learning differences. Talisman is part of Aspen Education Group, the nation’s leading provider of educational and therapeutic programs for underachieving or struggling young people.

To learn more about the Talisail program visit or call 888-458-8226.


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Linda Tatsapaugh
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