A breath of fresh air in Chausey

Sunday 4 September, Granville, in the Manche department. Around thirty families from Lower Normandy (Manche, Calvados, Orne) with autistic children and their siblings stood on the jetty, waiting to travel to Chausey. This was the culmination of a hiking project organised by the a href="http://www.autisme-basse-normandie.org/">Lower Normandy autism association, Autisme Basse Normandie, led by an Orange employee, Xavier Mantoy, who had obtained funding from the Orange Foundation.

autism hiking chausey foundation orange boat
Xavier also played an active role in organising the day and enlisted the help of other colleagues. Around a dozen Orange employees responded to his request to accompany these hikers for the day.
The individuals with autism were aged between 3 and 35 years old. Each with their own identity and personality, their own level of autism: severe, Asperger’s, and motor skills: some good, others less so, but all together.

One of the secrets behind this day was the preparation undertaken to ensure the participants were accompanied in an appropriate manner. After taking a look at the island, Xavier, along with a biology professor who also has a grandchild with Asperger’s, created a document explaining the various stages of the day, the safety instructions, the meeting points, the three routes to suit various levels of ability, the “scientific” information designed to arouse the curiosity of those with Asperger’s and encourage them to explore the island.
At 9.30am there was a short briefing on the jetty to provide basic information about the day.


autism hiking chausey foundation orange
autism  hiking chausey foundation orange
autism hiking chausey foundation orange

The excitement was palpable before the crossing, while everybody took their time to settle in. Some of the children felt slightly anxious, as was to be expected. The weather was grey and windy, and the sea was a little choppy. It was important to allow everyone time to embark on this journey at their own pace. The volunteers’ presence was reassuring for the families. Thanks to them, the whole family, including siblings, were able to enjoy this excursion.

At 11am, after the crossing, the walk began on Port Marie beach with a presentation about the island environment. Then it was time to explore the great outdoors, using the coastal paths. The explorers set off at their own pace, looking for birds native to this Natura 2000 area, as well as blackberries and certain flowers that are unique to Europe.

The picnic came as a well-deserved break after which, thanks to the low tide, the braver members of the party headed towards the La Massue beacon, walking the length of La Genétaie Island.
At 5pm, we boarded the return boat. The children were smiling, which made everyone happy. The weather, which had been overcast up until that point, brightened up before we approached Granville.

6.45pm. The trip came to an end and it was time to take stock: the parents and children were tired and happy after a day trip during which they could freely go walking, as families and as a group, without worrying about people staring. The main advantage for the families, and the organisation, was the opportunity to come together, to get to know each other and share information about experiences, facilities, etc.

The day re-energised everyone in preparation for the coming autumn.

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