We have been involved in it for almost 2 years and love it.
Before I lost my job and became poor, I took my DS to a stables because I was going to sign him up for lessons. I couldn't get him to leave! He stayed there for hours, just talking to all the horses (a kid who hardly talks).
I think it's a good idea to expose your DS to horses and the environment first (most schools will let you do this) and see how he tolerates the environment and how interested he seems in the animals. Also, letting him try a ride at a fair or something would be a good idea, if he is willing to try.
Try and find a school which specialises in kids with disabilities. They may want you to pay for a PT to eveluate your child first, for insurance reasons. If there are any areas of weakness that you would like him to work on, the PT may be able to assist you in this so it's not a total writeoff.
Good luck and if you try it, let us know how it goes.
Theraputic horsebackriding is designed specifically for kids with disabilities.
Similarities Between Horses and Autistics
I. Stress behaviors A. Autistic: rocking. Horse: weaving, circling B. Autistic: perseverations, stims. Horse: cribbing, windsucking
C. Autistic: head banging, rubbing, punching. Horse: stallkicking, tail rubbing (not caused by parasites, flies, etc.).
D. Autistics: Tourettes-like tics. Horses: tic-like headtossing, stamping, tic-like biting at self.
II. Number of clues needed before reacting (or "living in a constant stateof fear").
A. Prey animals (horses/cows) must respond to a single clue ifthey are to survive.
B. Waiting for a set of clues in the wild would not be conduciveto survival.
C. Predators need a series of clues to be able to 'plan' theirmeans of survival.
D. Baby's brains start off responding to a single clue, but inhumans (and predators) the brain matures into needing acomplex set of clues to react.
E. Autistic brains do not mature into needing a complex set ofclues to react, but continue to rely on a single, or limitedset of clues.III. Hyper and Hypo Sensitivity
A. Autistic: hypersensitivity to certain types of clothingmaterial, tags in clothing, etc.; being touched lightly.Horses: skin flinching when insects land on them; beingtouched lightly.
B. Autistic: hyposensitivity to painful injuries. Horses: notreacting to rider's leg pressure, kicks or even the crop.
IV. Withdrawal A. Autistic: seeming to be in another world; allowing hands,arms, legs to be positioned without seeming to notice.Horses: appearing to be dozing although their eyes are open;allowing their feet to be picked up and/or their legs to bemoved without seeming to notice.
B. Autistic: allowing themselves to be led while in thewithdrawal state. Horses: allowing themselves to be led while in thedozing-with-eyes-open state.
V. Sensory Overload and Shutdown
A. Autistic: becoming frozen in place when the senses becomeoverloaded and shutdown. Horses: becoming frozen in placewhen the senses become overloaded and shutdown, as when beingforced to enter a trailer or other situation which causesextreme fear.
VI. Social Relations
A. Autistics: do not become attached to other people in a normalsense. Horses: even though a herd animal and most comfortable whenpart of a herd, horses graze apart from each other, standapart from each other while resting and engage in a limitedamount of touching/grooming of each other.
B. Autistic: become stressed in crowds and even small groupswhich are too close together. Horses: become stressed whenthe herd or even a small group are put in an encloser thatdoesn't allow their normal 'personal space' zone.
A. Autistic: many low functioning autistics (and otherdevelopmentally disabled people) have a posture when movingwhere the arms are drawn up so that the elbows point forward,the wrists are cocked at a downward angle, and the back isarched so that the butt sticks out.
B. This looks similar to the horses trot - see enclosed pictureof a horse at the trot. C. The person moves his/her arms and legs in the same order asthe horses'four legs at the trot/jog.
D. Examples of this can be seen on tapes of Special Olympicstrack races.
A. Autistic: many low functioning autistics (and otherdevelopmetally disabled people) run one-sided, or on a'lead'.
B. Horses: canter/lope while on a left or right 'lead'.
C. The person moves his/her arms and legs in the same order asthe horses' four legs at the canter/lope.
D. There may be examples of this type of running on tapes ofSpecial Olympic track races. I didn't see this type ofrunning on the tapes I saw, but observed this at a SpecialOlympics event I attended.
IX. Ears (Vestibular Stimulation)
A. Autistic: vestibular stimulation in the form or spinning,deep pressure, etc. can be used to calm the person.
B. Horse: gently pulling and/or moving the ears in a circularmotion can be used to give relief to a horse having a mildcolic. It can also be used to calm a horse which is becomingagitated.
X. Not aware of body parts/Sensory Integration
A. Autistic: those who do not seem to be aware of where theirbody is in relation to their surroundings benefit fromsensory intergration.
B. Horses: Linda Tellington-Jones speaks about horses not beingaware of where their bodies are in relation to theirsurroundings and her techniques closely resemble sensoryintegration.
XI. B Vitamins
A. Autistic: some people seem to become calmer and have fewerautistic behaviors when taking B vitamins.
B. In 7 out of 13 over the-counter calmative products availablefor horses (last year) Thiamine (B-1) and/or 'B-vitamincomplex' was the major or only ingredient. Whileveterinarians remain skeptical about their usefulness, manyhorse owners swear that they work for their horses.
XII. Gluten A. Autistic: some autistics seem to have fewer autisticbehaviors when put on a gluten-free diet.
B. Horses: hot-blooded horses such as Thoroughbreds andArabians used for racing, and other high energy sports, arefed larger amounts of grain, and an anecdotal connection hasbeen made for years between that and an increase in negativebehaviors in some of these horses.
A. Anosognosia seen in right-sided stroke patients results inthe patient not recognizeing parts of their body asbelonging to them or have any feeling in that limb. They are often offended by the limb that they don'trecognize as their own; one man tried to throw his own legoff the bed because he said it was not his. B. Pouring cold water into the left ear of these patientsstimulated the vestibular system and reawkened the 'anomalydetector', allowing the patient to recognize the limb asbelonging to them.
C. Could the same type of thing be going on with the extremelyself-injurious autistic? Do they suffer recurring bouts ofanosognosia?
D. If this is what is happening could pouring cold water intothe left ear be a more humane way of stopping this behaviorthan the electric shock devices that are used at BRI?