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How indoor skydiving helped kids with special needs

Indoor skydiving
Posted at 1:19 PM, Dec 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-23 13:19:28-05

During a time of year when we focus on what we can give to others, a group of parents and friends gave their special needs loved ones a gift that will feed their souls for years to come.

They took them to iFLY, an indoor skydiving chamber, to learn the meaning of overcoming their fears, and in the process learn that they can defy what they think is possible for themselves.

A study from California State University San Marcos shows that kids and adults with special needs have lower self-esteem than their peers. Unaddressed, it can lead to anxiety, depression, and antisocial behavior.

“It’s a constant worry for him,” said Sally Palmer, speaking about her 23-year-old son Elijah who has autism. “We’re constantly checking what he’s doing, how he’s doing it and making sure he’s safe.”

Elijah was one of 30 participants set to fly for the first time.

Research from the National Institutes of Health shows self-concept, or how we look at ourselves, is particularly important in people with special needs, and doing activities that overcome fears can build confidence and resilience.

“I would say there’s confidence that comes from [indoor skydiving],” said iFLY general manager Jordan Boe. “Once you feel like you’re a superhero, it always builds in that confidence, especially for the all-abilities groups. They always talk about flying or being a superhero and when we step inside that chamber it gives them that sensation and they’re pumped. It’s magical.”

“That’s our purpose as parents,” added Sally. “To teach them to love and value themselves and to be proud of themselves, and I’m just so proud of [Elijah].”

Each of the 30 people spent a minute inside the chamber with a trained guide who ensured they stayed in place and were safe.

“He was just so happy,” said Elijah’s father, Steven. “It was a really great experience. We learned that with [Elijah], once he does something hard then he looks to do other things.”