A WOMAN who is scared of flying is to take part in a charity skydive with her autistic son – as a dare.
Phip Woodhatch will jump from an aeroplane at 10,000ft alongside George, who has Asperger’s syndrome, next Saturday – his 16th birthday.
The pair will take off from Redlands Airfield, near Swindon, and will each be tethered to a parachute instructor for the jump.
So far they have raised more than £1,100 for the National Autistic Society, which helped the family when George was diagnosed four years ago.
Mrs Woodhatch 47, of Wallingford Road, Goring, agreed to the challenge when the teenager dared her on New Year’s Eve.
She said: “George has wanted to do a parachute jump for as long as I can remember but you can’t do it until you’re 16.
“Because of his condition, he often gets anxious and has to be encouraged to face something like a social event with lots of people.
“We’re constantly challenging him so he decided it was only fair that I should have to overcome some of my own fears. I’m absolutely terrified of flying. The last time I flew, it was a bumpy landing and I unthinkingly grabbed the knee of the man sitting next to me, which was very embarrassing.
“George arranged his jump last year and was urging me to join him but I kept saying ‘no’ until I had a gin and tonic on New Year’s Eve and said, ‘okay, why not?’
“I booked myself on immediately so I couldn’t change my mind – and there’s no way I can back out now that so many people are sponsoring us.
“I’m trying not to think about it too much. I have dreams about it but I always wake up at the point where I’m jumping out of the door.
“People have told me that I’ll love it so hopefully I’ll come back with good memories and won’t wet myself on the way down.
“George teases me about the fact the parachute jump is coming up soon but only gently – he’s very sensitive and knows I’m nervous.”
Asperger’s syndrome is a type of autism that makes it hard for people to understand social interaction, body language and other people’s intentions. Those who have it are often intelligent but easily overwhelmed by changes in their routine, meeting new people or too much noise and stimulation.
George attended Goring Primary School before going to Langtree School in Woodcote, where his struggles first became apparent.
He would become overwhelmed by the pace of school life and often had to find a quiet place to calm down when he became anxious.
The National Autistic Society helped the family to get George diagnosed and to find a school that could accommodate his condition.
He now attends Lord Williams’s School in Thame, which has a specialist autistic unit, and will sit his GCSEs this summer. He hopes to study animal management at the Berkshire College of Agriculture and become a marine biologist or a reptile expert.
He is a keen animal lover and keeps two turtles, two axolotls, two fire– bellied newts, three tortoises and various snails and frogs in his bedroom. In his spare time he works in the kitchen at the Catherine Wheel in Goring.
Mrs Woodhatch said: “When you have a child on the autism spectrum it affects the whole family. The National Autistic Society has provided so much advice and support and it needs funding to carry on that work.
“Two years ago the idea of George working in a pub would never have happened but now he’s doing really well. The society has helped him to find a direction, to challenge himself and to think about his future.
“George is highly intelligent and really knowledgeable about his animals. Whenever he researches something he just retains that information. I have no doubt that he will succeed in his career as people with autism can be just as capable of achieving great things as anyone else.
“I think George is very proud that I’m going to be doing the jump with him because he knows what a big deal it is for me. I don’t know if it’ll cure my fear of flying but it’ll certainly be the first time I’ve taken off in a plane and not landed in one!”
To sponsor the pair, visit www.justgiving.com/Phip-Woodhatch1/