Malia was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder when she was just 2 years old. Something she continually has difficulty with is social interaction and communicating with others.
At 11 years old, Malia and her family attended their first A Walk on Water events in New Jersey and then in New York. Her mother Alisa said Malia has been receiving Occupational, Speech and Behavioral therapies ever since she was diagnosed, but that "by far surf therapy is where she shines". Following both A Walk on Water Surf Therapy events, her mother said:
"After spending time in the water, she is much more present and engaging"
Two of the things she typically has most difficulty with. Malia transformed from a girl who has difficulty with communication, to a girl bursting with joy, verbally requesting more waves, more ocean, and more fun.
When asked why the family made the long drive down from Norwalk, Connecticut for each event, her mother Alisa replied: