Autism is something that I’m very aware of since my sister is the Co-Founder of New England Pediatric Services. While I’ve been very fortunate not to be directly touched by it, I have several friends who have children at varying points on the spectrum.
So, this past weekend during SXSW at the annual AllHat party, I learned about the Austin, Texas based Horse Boy Foundation, The founder was on site as well as a couple of horses and a therapy goat. The minute I heard their story, I couldn’t wait to share the great work they are doing here in my column.
The Horse Boy Foundation is the brainchild of Rupert Isaacson, and grew out of his experience with his son Rowan’s autism.
As with many children diagnosed with autism he seemed unreachable, but he noticed that when he was taken in the woods or anywhere in nature his tantrums and stimming would relax.
One day, his son ran into the neighbor’s yard where he kept horses. Up until then he had been kept from the horses for fear of what might happen, but instead of anything negative the horses responded positively to his son. The horses actually showed signs of submission towards his son. Soon, they’d begin riding the horses through the woods together and the more they did it, the more responsive, engaged and vocal Rowan became.
In 2007 Rowan and his parents took a journey across Mongolia on horseback, going from traditional healer to traditional healer, shaman to shaman, looking for healing.
As they described the journey:
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 tantrumming, toilet trained and able to make friends.
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.
They are doing great work and run a variety of camps and playdates but of course need help to continue helping children.