Sailing program helps kids with disabilities

18-year-old Charles Seabrooks was born with learning disabilities and severe spinal problems, which often limit his physical activity.

However, thanks to the Adaptive Sports Academy at New York City's Hospital for Special Surgery, he’s learning to use his body like never before in a hands-on sailing excursion.

“That means I can see the view, the water, and talk to people and communicate a lot," Charles says.

“He's going sailing, and it’s like, a big experience for him. He’s very excited,” adds Charles’ mother, Gloria Rios.

Charles, along with four other physical therapy patients between ten and twenty years old, set sail in Oyster Bay’s West Harbor.

Each sailboat is equipped with an expert, as the students sit back with their ears open wide.

“So we have this curvature, and what happens is the wind, when we’re going upwind, is it goes faster on the outside and slower on the inside,” explains sailing instructor Neil Sawhney.

The Adaptive Sports Academy organizes these kinds of trips for pediatric patients to build their self-confidence, help them become more independent, and increase their mobility.

Sabrina Cerciello, a physical therapist who works with the Hospital for Special Surgery, says that while many patients are first-time sailors, a little practice can outweigh their physical challenges.

“That constant movement over the waves allows them to use their postural muscles, to engage their balance and coordination, and even just give them a new experience, a different way to move their body that they’re not used to,” adds Cerciello.

In the past, the Adaptive Sports Academy has taken its patients horseback riding, rock climbing, and yes, even surfing.

The adaptive activities are all offered completely free of cost as the kids continue their road to rehabilitation.