Ella MacDonald is still drawing, and although there is no time to ski these days, she has picked up a few more hobbies including pottery, animal care, and gardening.
Ella is a young artist who was diagnosed with autism at age 3. Due to limited verbal communication, it is through her art that she is able to share her joyful, abstract world.
Ella started skiing and swimming with Green Mountain Adaptive Sports over a decade ago. She is now 18 years old.
We reached out to her mother, Laura MacDonald to catch up on how Ella is doing, and to find out what is new in her life. Laura, who lives in Wolcott, VT shares the latest, and offers important advice about the importance of adaptive sports in the lives of families with a special needs child.
A little background
Ella began the Green Mountain Adaptive Sports program when she was in Stowe Elementary School. Stowe schools have the “Friday Program” which is when each Friday afternoon in the winter months the students go up to the mountain to ski or snowboard. Ella took to it right away. She loved the wind in her face and when she had her first chair lift ride her smile was a mile wide.
She skied each winter on Fridays which was wonderful. This continued until she left Middle School. Her skiing got better each year and she really enjoyed it. We realized she had incredible balance which made adaptive paddle boarding a smooth transition for her in the summer months. She made it look so easy. She never fell off her board once!
Once Ella moved on to middle school, the public school setting became too much for her. She is now at a residential special needs school called The Camphill School.
She graduated high school last spring and is now at their transition campus which means less time in the classroom and more time focusing on her vocation. Ella made us a beautiful vase for Christmas in pottery class. She also has been taking care of the barn animals and spends her afternoons planting in the greenhouses and creating flower arrangements for the school’s flower CSA.
When she is home in the winter it is during the busy Christmas week so she doesn’t ski anymore. I am sure once Ella leaves that school when she turns 22 she will be back on the Hill for sure. I always ask her if she wants to ski again and the answer is always “yes!”
Still Drawing and Selling Her Art
Ella continues to draw, and we are fortunate to have Ella Skye Art selling at Black Cap Coffee of Vermont in the Stowe and Morrisville locations. Her cards and mugs have been in the Stowe shop for over 10 years now! It is a wonderful way to spread autism awareness and I love that her art makes people smile. Her cards can also be purchased online here.
Adaptive Sports Provide a Lifetime of Enjoyment
I highly recommend anyone with a special needs child no matter what their age to get them into an adaptive program. If it is a sport they have never tried just go for it. There is no downside to trying and it just might turn into a lifetime of enjoyment not only for your child but for your family.
And if your child doesn’t like it at least you tried! Yes, there are so many physical benefits to sports but most importantly friendships are made and self-esteem grows. I think it’s great anytime the general public sees our amazing athletes enjoying sports just like everyone else. There have been many times that people have come up to me to ask questions in the ski lodge which is a wonderful chance to share what makes your child so special.
From a parent’s perspective, adaptive sports can be a nice way to meet other parents and families who are traveling down the same bumpy road that you are. I have made some very strong friendships through GMAS. Get involved, volunteer at fundraisers, or join the board. It’s a lot of fun!