Jul 22 2011 by Lisa Boyle, Ayrshire Post (main ed)
TEENAGERS Mark Ferguson and Sam Marshall are remarkable young men.
For the 16-year-olds have defied the odds by climbing 2000 feet to the top of Cairn Table near Muirkirk.
No mean feat when you consider that Mark and Sam both suffer from autism.
Their condition means that the boys have difficulty communicating with people and it affects how they make sense of the world around them.
It also means that they need a strict routine to ensure that they feel safe and comfortable.
Mark and Sam both lived at Daldorch house in Catrine when they were chosen to take part in Sky Sports Living for Sport initiative. It’s delivered in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust to motivate and inspire secondary school students to change behaviours, improve life skills and increase attainment through participation in sport.
Mark and Sam’s autism means that although they enjoy being outdoors they need a high degree of structure in their tasks.
The specially tailored Sky Sports Living for Sport project saw Mark and Sam undertake a challenging series of outdoor walking activities within the beautiful countryside surrounding the school.
After five weeks, they had built up enough practice to tackle the final challenge – a 2000ft ascent of the Cairn Table.
Both Sam and Mark scaled the summit of the hill, proudly wearing their Sky Sports Living for Sports T-shirts.
Over the weeks, the boys had built up their stamina and strength and learnt skills that were entirely new to them.
The programme included packing a rucksack, a planned rest break and preparing a cooked lunch – a socially important achievement for both young men.
As part of the initiative the pupils received a visit from former Commonwealth gold medal winning gymnast Steve Frew, who inspired them with his own stories of success
Steve Frew said: “To me this is such an inspiring and incredible use of Sky Sports Living for Sport, showing how it can be adapted to help all young people – regardless of disability – to be the best they can be.
“I have met so many incredible pupils during the last four years as an Athlete Mentor but my visit to Daldorch house was the most inspirational yet.”
Ian Blondin, principal teacher at Daldorch, added: “Sam and Mark’s achievements are remarkable.
“Through the Sky Sports Living for Sport project the boys’ social development has progressed well through the various activities in the community.
“So many people came together to help make this possible. From the wonderful enthusiasm of the Sport and Leisure Coordinator and the staff team in Bute House, their excellent understanding of autism and the boys’ individual needs, through to Steve Frew’s personal commitment and ability to motivate and inspire.
“Sky Sports Living for Sport has been an enormous support to the boys and to staff members.”
Since climbing the Cairn Table Sam has moved on from Daldorch into supported living in the community, and Mark continues to make progress within the school.