MUSC OTD Class of 2026 Joins Surfers Healing on Folly Beach

Lauren Allen, OTS
September 07, 2023
OTD Class of 2026 attends Surfers Healing Folly Beach
OTD class of 2026 gather at Surfer's Healing on Folly Beach
Surfers Healing sign at Folly Beach

Founded in 1996, Surfers Healing is a free surf camp with a very meaningful mission: taking children with autism surfing and building a strong community along the way. Through tandem surfing, this non-profit organization gives children with autism a chance to step out of their comfort zone and take part in a day filled with smiles, support, and confidence building. These camps are held in various locations around the world and Charleston’s Folly Beach is home to one of them!

As a first year MUSC OTD student, I was fortunate enough to attend this event. On Wednesday, August 23rd, my class and I took our learning outside of the classroom and headed to Folly Beach to join in the Surfers Healing mission of acceptance, respite, and fun.

surfing at Surfers Healing Folly BeachMy role at the event included volunteering for a shift at the MUSC “play tent” and cheering kids on from the shoreline. At the play tent, I had the chance to interact with the kids- building sandcastles, playing with toys, laughing, and learning about each other. On the shoreline, I saw a special sense of encouragement, connection, and community. Throughout my day at the beach, I found myself thinking about things I have learned in my studies so far.

Last semester, in my Intro to Occupational Therapy course, I learned about the important models that OTs use to view people through an occupational lens. One of those models is the Model of Human Occupation (MOHO). MOHO recognizes and affirms that human occupation is complex. It addresses the internal components of a person such as their interests, skills, and identity, and emphasizes the role of external factors such as the physical and social environments.

Members of OTD Class of 2026 volunteering at the MUSC play tentUnderstanding and accounting for these factors helps people adapt and flourish. I found myself having conversations and interacting through this newfound occupational lens. Being able to provide these kids with a safe space and positive environment to share their interests (such as sea creatures and vintage cars) showed me how my time in the classroom is a direct reflection of what I will see in the community as a future OT.

Although our Pediatrics I course just began, the first assignment was about the value of inclusion, support, and participation for neurodiverse children, and their families. Participation in occupations is vital for all humans. For children, their main occupation is play! However, children with Autism can face unique barriers when it comes to participation in this occupation. That is where OT comes into play! OTs aim to increase participation in children with Autism by implementing interventions for communication skills, socialization, and sensory processing, to name a few. While Surfers Healing was a form of non-traditional therapy, the similarities to OT were noticeably clear. Witnessing the event's profound impact on all who attended was truly a remarkable experience. While I loved to see the children light up when they received their medals and had their photos taken, I was especially drawn to the joy of the parents behind the cameras. Surfers Healing states that “Autism parents are always hearing about what their children cannot do. But at a Surfers Healing camp, it's all about what their kids can do.” Not only was this a day for the kids to just be kids, but it was also a day for the parents to witness their kids, just being kids.

Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good. - Minor Meyers, Jr.

Some members of the OTD Class of 2026Surfers Healing highlights just how powerful and transformative therapeutic experiences can be for children and their families- and we first year MUSC Occupational Therapy students got to witness that firsthand. Here is what a couple of my classmates had to say about their experiences:

“To me, this experience showed the power of inclusivity and the impact it makes to give every child a place where they are celebrated and empowered to participate. Seeing the kids come out of the water with beaming smiles and being cheered on by a crowd filled with support was an inspiring and joyful experience. As a first year OT student, we spend much of our time in the classroom so getting to step out into the community and be a part of this camp was a very special experience.”
-Heather Short, OTS ‘26

play tent at Surfer's Healing Folly Beach“Being able to experience Surfers Healing revealed to me the power of communities coming together and supporting each other. There were t-shirts, hats, food, coffee, and various play stations, a little something for everyone. There were smiles on everyone’s faces and lots of encouragement for the individuals who chose to surf. As soon as they would “catch a wave” the crowd went wild, clapping and cheering them on as they rode the waves to shore. This was a heartwarming experience, and it was clear how much the families and children enjoyed the event. I can’t wait for more days like this as I continue pursuing a career in occupational therapy.”
-Liz Dorn, OTS ‘26

As an OT student, it can be easy to get caught up with grades or lose focus of the bigger picture. There are long days on campus, assignment deadlines to meet, projects to complete, and exams to study for. However, taking part in events like Surfers Healing reminds me of why I chose to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy.

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