Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Passion and Love Can Bring Out The Voice

We all have particular dreams and aspirations for our children when they are born. When a child is diagnosed with autism, those hopes and dreams undergo major changes. Over this past year, I have had to come to terms with what to expect for my daughter, but there are some things that remain constant. My daughter wants to communicate, she wants to belong, she wants friendships. As her mother, it's my job to help her, but it is difficult to watch her struggle.

While many people know that autism exists, they can't identify it in another person. My daughter looks like any other girl her age—and she is so beautiful. People are taken aback by her lack of communication. Strangers that meet her are always asking her questions and are always talking to her. When Natalie does not respond to them, they think that she is being rude or she is trying to purposely ignore them. I can see these small things become giant obstacles for her as she gets older and tries to make friends.

While some people are understanding and accepting, many people are not. Many people believe that children and adults with autism don't have feelings, but this couldn't be further from the truth. My daughter definitely has feelings and they get hurt easily. She just doesn't express her emotions in the same way that you or I might. The sad truth is that society views autism as a disability. It is true that  people with autism have challenges, but  isn't this true of everyone, whether they have a disability or not? My daughter is still the same beautiful, amazing, loving child she was before the diagnosis.

I have spent hours surfing the internet, seeking new treatments. There are many new and unproven programs that promise miraculous results.  
There are many approaches out there, and my purpose here is not to debate which is “right” or “wrong”. It's just that it takes a long time for an approach to accumulate enough research to be proven as “evidence-based”, and I can’t afford to wait.
As an autism mommy, I tend to follow my intuition. I may not be an expert on autism, yet, but I am an expert on my child. What works for one  may not work for another.

So recently I have followed my intuition and knowing that Natalie has a special love for horses, After some research I found Equus for Humanity, a horse ranch  that provides equine assisted therapeutic activities. I cannot tell you how much Natalie has loved doing these therapies. They combine speech, physical and occupational therapy and use the horse to get the results they want from my daughter. Her daddy and I were in disbelief last week when Natalie gave "Chocolate Chip"  a command, a two-word sentence that I had never, ever heard her say before. She wanted Chocolate Chip to walk, but the horse won't walk unless given the proper command. At first, I saw Natalie struggle to form the words with her mouth, I was so impressed because I could read her lips clearly, and then, she did it! she said out loud, "Walk On" and the horse started to trot along.
Natalie & Chocolate Chip
  The doctor that works with Natalie turned to us with a big smile and a thumbs up and the tears  welled up in my eyes.  Natalie totally gets it, she knows that in order to have the horse do what she wants, she must give the verbal commands. I could not be more pleased and I am so happy to use her passion for horses
 in order to bring out her voice.

If you are interested in reading more about therapy with horses, you can access the website for Equus for Humanity here or follow their Facebook page here

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