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Climbing Stories: Meet Elliot

Elliot has started climbing sessions with Sarah, at Summit Up, which has been fantastic! Climbing has such a positive impact on him. It is so good for his physical fitness and each time he climbs, we see him really having to work hard and use his problem-solving skills. Most important of all, he clearly really enjoys it!

Elliot is a 21 years old young man who has a condition called CHARGE syndrome. For Elliot, this means he is profoundly deaf with severe communication and learning disabilities. Elliot is unable to speak and he communicates through simple sign language. Elliot loves the outdoors and being physically active. His favourite activities are swimming, cycling and climbing.

You could say that Elliot's first real life experience of climbing was at the age of 4, when he climbed out of a tiny bedroom window and down onto a porch roof. At this time, Elliot was really small (more like the size of a two year old) and he had only just started walking. We put him to bed one night and when all went quiet on the baby monitor, we thought he had gone to sleep. Then came a knock at the door from a passer by telling us that Elliot was on the porch roof. We were horrified and couldn't believe it had happened! Elliot was rescued and seemed unfazed by it all. The following night, and with all bedroom windows locked, we looked in on Elliot and found him at it again - stepping onto a radiator post, and pulling himself up onto the window sill. We were still not sure quite how he had got to the next stage on the previous night as it seemed almost impossible. Needless to say, all windows were fitted with window restrictors the very next day!

However, Elliot's first official climbing experience was when he started school at Seashell Trust, a specialist school for children and young people with complex needs. He was six years old when he had his first lesson. We were so pleased that he got the opportunity to use their climbing wall and happy to hear how well he'd done at climbing to the top. As Elliot got older, I think he outgrew the wall as it wasn't that high. So, at the age of 16, Seashell staff took him to Manchester Climbing Centre. They filmed Elliot climbing and then sent the video home for us to see. It was amazing to see how well he did at climbing some really high walls!

More recently, Elliot has started climbing sessions with Sarah, at Summit Up, which has been fantastic. We know Sarah because she had previously worked at Elliot's college. Sarah is very experienced with people with complex needs and this was really reassuring to us. We have found it really difficult to access mainstream public leisure facilities through the years and don't really think that many places are set up to meet the needs of people with learning disabilities. We have found Summit Up to be an inclusive climbing centre and have been lucky to have Sarah as Elliot's instructor. Not only is she a tremendously skilled instructor, she is able to communicate with Elliot through sign language and she is passionate about inclusivity. Elliot feels safe with her and is comfortable in the bright and spacious environment at Summit Up. Other climbers have been very friendly and two climbers recently offered to climb alongside Elliot to help guide him, which was lovely. Elliot also loves the cakes at the cafe!

Elliot is now in his last year at Seashell Trust college. He has just moved from our family home into supported living where he receives full time 1-1 support. As parents, we are keen for Elliot to continue his climbing at Summit Up. Climbing has such a positive impact on him. It is so good for his physical fitness and each time he climbs, we see him really having to work hard and use his problem-solving skills. Most important of all, he clearly really enjoys it!

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