Courtesy photo
A group of local SPED students spent a recent day of fun in Mammoth.

The Mammoth area was full of snow as 18 of our local SPED kids, along with chaperones, hit the tubing slopes at the Woolly Mountain Resort on Dec. 12 for a day of new experiences. These special education students were selected from the Junior High and High School classes, with most never having such an adventure like this before.

The disabled sports program that is offered at Mammoth Mountain is coordinated by SPED teacher Mike Harris, to create a third year of fun on the slopes. By working with the support of the Mineral County School Board, private donors, a scholarship and supportive parents, this field trip brings a new advancement to students which normally would never brave such an excursion.

Harris explained the importance of these field trips having two main components.

“We are building up confidence levels within kids that don’t always get their due acknowledgement and this provides an experience they may never have again. They will always remember it.”

Because these Mineral County students are becoming an annual participant, Mammoth Mountain has offered a special opportunity to eight students that could return in early spring and experience an actual ski trip. They will provide a specialized trained instructor and use a bunny hill for the initial experience. Although this would provide an amazing adventure, it will require additional funding within a sponsored scholarship by community donors. Anyone interested in assisting with this opportunity could contact the SPED program through the High School to receive more detailed information from Harris.

“This day is an overall success as you see our students with varying degrees of disabilities interacting with the Mammoth instructors, one another and tubing down the slopes in total freedom. Laughter doesn’t have a physical limit and courage grows in everyone as they experience the momentum of the day – even Ms. Dodge who is one of our teachers went down the slope for the first time and loved it so much she just kept going with it.”

Part of the program involves socialization, so the students eat out at a local fast food location, having previously rehearsed their ordering and paying skills. Since the program extends into basic living skills, the students are taught appropriate public behavior along with practical abilities to further their own independence to prosper.

The autistic students are exposed to the texture of snow, making snow balls and learning to experience a new outdoor location that includes different smells and sights. While everyone works together, the chaperones are available to assist in answering questions and they help keep each student in a safe state of mind.

“As a teacher with a long history of working with special education students, I can truly say that exposure to new things only helps to dispel fears and make each child more productive for the future,” Harris shared.