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How skiing helped Sophie thrive

As Disability History Month continues, Disability Snowsport UK senior partnerships fundraising officer shares the story of one of their members and the many benefits she and her family have gained from being active.

4th December 2023

by Roz Webster
Senior partnerships fundraising officer, Disability Snowsport UK

Sophie started taking lessons with Disability Snowsport UK (DSUK) in 2019 and had her first taste of skiing after her physiotherapist suggested she tried exercises that could help her condition - Beaulieu-Boycott-Innes syndrome.

She is one of few children with the condition who are mobile, so Sophie’s mum was keen to try activities to improve her core strength.

The power of being active

As part of Sophie’s condition, she has respiratory problems and is always at risk of pneumonia, so she takes antibiotics and will do so in the long-term.

The benefits from the skiing sessions, that were developed with the support of a Sport England grant, on Sophie’s health have been many, including an improved posture and stamina - which has also impacted positively on her breathing.

In a normal year Sophie could have eight chest infections, but last winter she only had three that required breakthrough medication.

Particularly over the last 12 months, Sophie has also seen a dramatic improvement in her mobility.

One of the main changes has been the definition of her leg muscle strength, which has allowed Sophie to be more confident when walking up and down the stairs, something that used to be a real problem.

There's also been an increase of independence with her skiing.

Growing confidence outside the slopes

And that’s not all. She’s now more talkative, interacts with various members of staff and has developed friendships with peers.

Sophie started taking lessons with DSUK in 2019 and had her first taste of skiing after her physiotherapist suggested she tried exercises that could help her condition.

In school, she now proudly puts up her hand in class to talk about skiing, and uses photos and certificates from her skiing achievements as a motivation for communication.

Skiing has also provided a real support network for the whole family.

Her mum, Rebecca, mentioned that it used to be difficult to find school holiday activities that catered for both disabled and non-disabled children together, and that it used to stop her children from sharing experiences

Plus, this also meant Eliza, Sophie’s younger sister, lacked the chance to mix with other kids who share her understanding of living with a disabled sibling.

Their common love of the sport has had a really positive impact on Eliza, though, as many of her friends are doing activities with their siblings and she is proud to share what she and her sister have done during the weekend.

Talking about their skiing experience has strengthened the sibling bond between the two.

On ski days, Eliza helps Sophie prepare her bag and encourages her to talk about the equipment she'll need for the session. 

As Sophie is now becoming a teenager, Rebecca says that Eliza can often help to bring her sister out of a meltdown or tears by talking about skiing.

For the girls, it has been a great opportunity to develop friendships, extending to social interaction outside of DSUK activities.

Trying new things

This support is invaluable, with parents forming friendships and sharing advice from schooling, to tips on skiing gloves.

Seeing Sophie socialise and make some friends her own age has been heart-warming for Rebecca.

The DSUK activity sessions have also been an opportunity to try new sports in a supported setting.

Rebecca said she didn’t have the confidence to take Sophie and Eliza both ice-skating for the first time together, but the DSUK staff made this easy.

Sophie even participated in a friend’s climbing birthday party. Something she wouldn’t have done before.

Now, the family dream is to take the girls on a skiing holiday together.

They have come a really long way from Sophie not being able to tolerate wearing a ski helmet or being able to stand on snow and they can now see their dream becoming a reality.

Eliza dreams of becoming a ski instructor at DSUK to help others like her sister.

And as Sophie nears the end of her school education, her family hopes to continue skiing weekly, helping with her physical and mental wellbeing.

Sophie has developed fantastic relationships with her DSUK instructors, who all take time to nurture her and challenge her to do more, plus her improvement means she now requires less support and no longer tethers on the slope.

She knows and trusts the team, which is so important to enhance her experience.

Her love for the sport is growing and she never wants to finish at the end of a lesson, which speaks volumes in terms of improvements to her stamina.

Skiing has become a huge part of Sophie and her family’s life and we look forward to continuing to supporting them. 

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Disability Snowsport UK

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