Autism and equestrian work is still very much a mystery, and a very beautiful mystery.... just as Autism is a mystery. What do horses understand about autism that humans do not? What do holistic Shamanic healers of Mongolia know about curing Autism, that modern medicines and behavioral medicines find hard to understand? No one truly knows what causes Autism. There are many theories, but no REAL answers. Some say environmental factors, immunizations, genetics, "bad luck," "bad Karma." etc., are all common contributors to the Autism phenomenon. No one answer seems conclusive. For the parents of children diagnosed with Autism, these somewhat dubious and heartless answers are not helpful at all. So what does help? Who does understand the mystery and why?
Parental weakness and lack of ability to properly train the child through discipline and structure with consistency has been proven to create more anxiety in the children of Autism. All children need loving kindness tempered with discipline and structure, but Autistic children need this even more and on a deeper level than other children. As these children find change a challenge, they must be continually coerced to accept it as an inevitability of life.
Temple Grandin's mother worked hard against all odds, and through her tireless strength and determination, Temple Grandin is now a world renowned PhD who is yes, also Autistic. Temple attributes her success with her mothers' strong and stable prodding in raising Temple despite the "nay-Sayers."
People of Autism and those on the Autism spectrum, have very special talents which have in many cases, contributed to the success of humanity. They have a gift for mental focus on a very narrow topic, to the exclusion of every other thing else, which in some instances, has proven to be a very positive trait. They have wonderfully gifted talents, such as being able to think about things in a very clear minded fashion, and due to this type of mental focus and clear thinking patterns, they are better able to do certain things than someone who does not have autism.
Throughout our known human existence, we have come across those who were diagnosed with autism, and who have special artistic qualities: great painters, musicians, mathematicians, scientists, researchers, technical writers, etc. These people are very good at making associations in a way others cannot see. They see the details that others miss. They can see patterns and make accurate correlations and associations. They are good at categorizing and organizing things in an advanced fashion, which others may find daunting at best. They are excellent at putting difficult puzzles together. In fact, this Examiner has watched first hand, persons of autism put together a 10,000 piece puzzle together is record time without missing a single piece. If given the chance, they could also prove to be excellent trackers, investigators and detectives on a grand scale.
Autism and people on the autism spectrum tend to live with a significant amount of anxiety. What we have learned, is that horses understand this trait in the people of autism and show empathy for them. Horses, are by nature, intuitive prey animals and as such, are anxiety ridden. For a horse to be around a human with such high anxiety is actually somewhat comforting to the horse, as the horse feels safe around this type of human. After all, horses see humans as, and rightly so, predators. To the horse, a human with autism can be trusted on a deep and innate level. Conversely, and rightfully so, the horse provides a deep comfort to the human characterized with such deeply rooted anxiety. It is as though the two, complement one another. Through autism, humans have learned more about the inner workings of horses (other prey and domesticated animals) and visa versa.
A book and subsequent documentary called, “The Horse Boy” traces a young autistic boy named Rowan’s early difficulties with “demonic” tantrums, speech delays and incontinence. The only thing that seemed to help, Mr. Isaacson (the father of the young boy) discovered, was riding horses. On horseback Rowan was calm, gave verbal directives and expressed joy."
- "Mr. Isaacson, who had previously written about the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa and witnessed several shamanic ceremonies, took his son to a convention of traditional healers. For a few days Rowan improved."
- "Mr. Isaacson, a travel writer, wondered where he could combine horses and shamanic healing, and landed upon Mongolia. After some intensive Google searching and heated discussion with his wife, Kristin Neff, an associate professor of human development and culture at the University of Texas, the family decided to make the journey. A young filmmaker agreed to record the trip."
MONGOLIAN SHAMANS. "Mr. Isaacson has optioned feature film rights for “The Horse Boy” to Mark Ordesky, an executive producer of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and Ileen Maisel, an executive producer of the “Golden Compass.” Mr. Isaacson is writing the screenplay."
- "In writing about Rowan’s experiences, Mr. Isaacson is careful to avoid the word “cure,” but writes of an amazing “recovery” and “healing.” That has some prospective readers wary. Sharon Fennell, a mother of three in Belfast, Northern Ireland, whose 8-year-old son is autistic, said she had read newspaper excerpts and reviews in Britain, where the book came out last month. She questioned whether Rowan’s progress could be attributed to what happened in Mongolia or to just typical changes that all children go through."
- “To make this story more engaging, it has to be portrayed as something miraculous and fantastical, because ordinary, everyday, slow-plodding progress does not read so well,” Ms. Fennell said. Doctors who have worked with autistic patients say a child can make big leaps in development, and that stories like Mr. Isaacson’s can provide inspiration to families. “I think we’ve all seen these alternative or augmentative therapies that have done wonders for given children,” said Dr. Sarah Spence, a pediatric neurologist specializing in autism at the National Institute of Mental Health.
- But others warn that such examples are not tested by science. Dr. Paul A. Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of “Autism’s False Prophets,” said anecdotal examples of recovery like that in “The Horse Boy” could give parents “false hope” and lead them to spend thousands of dollars trying to replicate an experience without any scientific proof that it would help.
- Mr. Isaacson said that he and his wife had used part of his book advance to start a ranch where other autistic children could ride horses. But he added that the approach he chronicled in “The Horse Boy” was tailored to Rowan’s personality. “The book isn’t really saying that shamanism cures autism or horses cure autism; it’s saying we found a way,” said Mr. Isaacson, who took Rowan, now 7, to Namibia last year to meet again with shamans. “You don’t have to get on a plane and go to Mongolia. It’s just that our particular story was that.”
- Mr. Pietsch of Little, Brown said he hoped “The Horse Boy” would find a broader audience. In a brochure sent to booksellers, the book is described as combining “the adventure and optimism of ‘Three Cups of Tea’ with the powerful connection between man and animal that readers loved in ‘Marley and Me.’
The reality of Shamanism is, and the most common things that anthropologists have learned, is that Shamans are people who have, themselves, gone through some sickness or neuropsychiatric symptoms. The Shamans don't show neurological symptoms because they are Shamans, they are Shamans because they have gone through some sort of neurological symptoms in their own past themselves, and have overcame them, which causes them to be intuitively empathetic healers of others. The line between what we say is a Shaman and what we say is a psychoanalyst, is not that clearly delineated. We just so happen to be, one of the few societies that continue to treat neurological symptoms as though they were some sort of disease, which needs to be put away and institutionalized. Most other modern cultures don't do that. In fact, most other modern nations feel that the still very young America, still has a long way to go in the fight for true human rights as well as becoming a truly humane country.
Most good and loving parents of these children will often try various approaches to cure or heal their offspring's suffering from this tremendous burden in our society. Burden, because of how our society treats these children and their families. This Examiner has been blessed to have worked closely with a number of such parents as well as the children of autism. Some more financially blessed parents, have literally flown around the world to attempt to find treatments that promised cures for autism. And over the past two decades, there have been a number of “miracle cures” beyond the scientific community that, in the end, did not affect autism. At the same time, many of the scientific-based treatments, from diet to medications to behavioral therapy, also have not produced many positive outcomes.
While we should not put all of our hopes into what we call the miracle cure, however, it is so important that we do remain open minded when it comes to new treatment modalities, as it is through such thinking that new insights can occur, even if perhaps, all we learn is that we need to change the way we see these special people who have so much to offer our society as a whole. Perhaps we can learn from the horses, that these people just need to be looked at from a different perspective. From that new different perspective, we may very well become the cure. Perhaps we are the sick ones and not these people. Perhaps they are a gift that we need to learn to appreciate and to incorporate into our society as other nations do. We need to become more Autism-friendly.
Autism can never truly be cured because it is not a disease to be cured, but rather, it is another spectrum of personalities that needs to be understood and looked at as a diversity issue. These special gifted people of humanity, just need a chance to be included into the mainstream citizenry. They have so much to offer us all. To do otherwise, would be to literally become harmful to the whole of our society. And to continue our existence in ignorance.