'The Horse Boy Story & Method' by Jenny Lockwood

Caroline’s Commentary:

Here is an overview of The Horse Boy Story and Method by Rowan’s  teacher,  Jenny Lockwood.  I highly recommend both the documentary film and the book ‘The Horse Boy’ as well as the Horse Boy Method of teaching academics which will be posted next month, mid December.  Even if you do not have access to horses, the Horse Boy Method can be utilized for teaching children on the autism spectrum.  It is even possible for an autistic child to draw or paint on a horse!

Rupert Isaacson, a lifelong horse fanatic, was devastated when his 2 year old son Rowan was diagnosed with autism. Gone were his dreams of one day sharing his passion of horses with his son…or so he thought. Rowan seemed unreachable, however, whenever his dad took him into the woods behind their house, his tantrums and stimmings seemed to calm down. One day, Rowan ran away from his dad and got through the fence into their neighbor’s property and in amongst his horse herd. Rupert had been keeping his son away from horses – thinking him unsafe around them. However, that day he witnessed something extraordinary. Instead of trampling this squirming, babbling little child lying on his back among their hooves, the horses backed off gently. Then the boss of the herd, a mare called Betsy, came over and began to lower her head in front of Rowan, to lick and chew with her lips. This is the sign of equine submission. Rupert, Rowan’s dad, had never seen a horse voluntarily make this submission gesture to a human being before. Clearly something was passing between the horse and the little boy so Isaacson talked to his neighbor Stafford, who owned Besty, and got the key to his saddle room.

For three years father and son rode every day through the woods and fields of Central Texas and – first through Betsy, then spontaneously, Rowan began to talk, to engage with his environment and other people. In 2007 Rowan, his dad, and mother – Kristin Neff, a psychology professor at the University of Texas – took a journey across Mongolia on horseback, going from traditional healer to traditional healer, shaman to shaman, looking for healing. They went out with a child still tantrumming, still un-toilet trained, and cut off from other children. They came back with a child no longer tantruming, toilet trained and able to make friends. Rupert wrote a book about his family’s adventure, and also produced a film which documented the trip. Both are titled ‘The Horse Boy’

After returning from Mongolia, the Isaacson family started the Horse Boy Foundation to help make horses and nature available to other children, autistic or not, who might not otherwise have access to them. Over approximately seven years of working with autistic children and horses Rupert stumbled upon a number of techniques that seemed to bring about better verbal communication with his son. Soon after Rowan’s success Rupert began working with other local children on the spectrum to see if what had worked with Rowan and Betsy would also work for them. After a couple more years Rupert realized that he had a system of techniques in place that targeted different types of autism spectrum challenges. Since 2009 he has been working internationally with the Horse Boy Method™ at camps and centers in North America and Europe.

Continue reading “'The Horse Boy Story & Method' by Jenny Lockwood”

Creative Arts Necessary in the daily Life of Classroom/Teaching Children with Autism by Caroline F. Butson

I was recently interviewed by a teacher for students with autism in the Bronx who is also a graduate student doing research.  Her question was “Do existing art programs facilitate/support the communication needs and engagement of students with autism?” This is a great question especially where students are not receiving regular art instruction. Here is the beginning of my answer:
” I’m not sure that existing art programs support the students with autism
or not as I am not familiar enough with them however I do know that
autistic children learn best when the teacher can be creative in making
learning fun and teaching using lots of visual tools.
Any subject can be taught using the creative arts.   This is what I am
trying to do here at the Tree of Life Centre for Creativity with the
Creative Art Adventures.  Waldorf education is one other  example of this
way where every subject in every grade is taught creatively.  I know there
has to be less emphasis on fancy techniques and drawing realistic and more
emphasis on encouraging to use all the creative tools available and keeping
it simple for everyone, both teacher and student.  It’s all very simple just
be who you are and express who you are and let go of other’s expectations of
who they want you to be.  A teacher is one of the most influential person in
the life of a child and having an attitude of acceptance and encouragement
is key to teaching a child on autism spectrum. Accentuate the positive and watch how the child with autism blossoms! They have a lot of gifts and talents to offer.  They will gradually come out of their shell in their own time and when they are ready.
Creative expression needs to be a part of the daily life in the classroom and at home. It’s not enough to just have 45 minutes or one hour a week in
the timetable for an art class.  That is a good start but not enough.

Art needs to be woven into the daily fabric of society at every level. Art, poetry and music is what makes us human beings and not bio robots.”

'Autism, Hope & Positive Intervention' by John W. Samuels

Caroline’s Commentary:

Here is an article with lots of helpful information for you.  Mr. Samuels is basically saying that special education, positive support by parents, lifestyle changes and therapies such as art therapy are the best answers for overcoming autism.  I’m interested to know what your thoughts are on this subject.  Leave your comment below. (No spam please)

‘Autism, Hope & Positive Intervention’ by John W. Samuels

Autism is a neurological condition characterized by impairments in social, communicative and behavioral development. It is three times as common, like ADHD, in boys. The level of severity varies and the problem of autism is international in scope. It has been described as a “public health concern.”

In 1943 Dr. Leo Kanner of the Johns Hopkins Hospital studied a group of 11 children and introduced the label early infantile autism. A German scientist, about the same time, labeled a milder form of the disorder which became known as Asperger syndrome. These are two the most common of the disorders known as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), or as autism spectrum disorders.

The five PDD disorders are autism, Asperger syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (the latter two being less common that the first two). Also, a 5th is labeled as PDD-NOS, that is pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, a disorder that does not meet the specific criteria for the other commonly diagnosed disorders.

At times it takes discernment on the part of parents and treatment teams, psychologists and professionals in determining whether a child has ADHD, autism, or some other disorder.

Experiences Recently the girlfriend of actor Jim Carrey, Jenny McCarthy, released teh book “Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism,” about her son, Evan, and his progress in coming out of autism, as well as about Carey’s attentiveness to him and the role that she felt that had in his partial recovery. Evan is 5-years-old (November 2007) Evan’s experience here.

Stories such as this do give a ray of hope to parents whose children are autistic and should encourage them to take whatever postitives steps they can to work with their children to see what might be of help. For some children, full recovery might not be possible, for others, that might be hope for a better life through therapy and lifestyle adjustments. Continue reading “'Autism, Hope & Positive Intervention' by John W. Samuels”