Tag Archives: SID

Play

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” ~Fred Rogers

Why, as a society, have we deviated so far from this mindset?  We push our kids into a tiny, constrained box, and expect them to behave accordingly.  (And that box continually gets smaller and smaller.)  Subsequently, when our children don’t conform to society’s perception of a “good” child, we slap labels on them.  And why?  Is it because we’d rather parent and educate automatons as opposed to vibrant, precocious, inquisitive and curious little beings that take energy, time and effort?  That’s a rhetorical question, folks, but one we seriously need to consider.  As the parent of both a 32 year old and five year old, I say this with authority and from a VERY unique perspective.

Bear in mind, I say this as the parent of a child who definitely has all the classic characteristics associated with high-functioning Aspergers.  BUT, I’ve encountered more than a few medical professionals who recklessly want to add additional letters to his diagnosis.  I also see so many other kids who are simply playful, curious, active, etc., who clearly don’t deserve to be alphabet soup children.  I want to shout, “THEY’RE JUST KIDS, for Pete’s sake! LET THEM BE KIDS!”  We need to take charge and advocate for them.  We really do.  We are THE VOICE for our littles.  Certainly not the schools.  Not the doctors.  Not the busy bodies in the grocery store.  We, the parents, are their voice.

A Grand Passion

When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk.  He trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes.
~William Shakespeare (The Dauphin, Henry V, Act III, Scene VII)

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Several months ago, I enrolled Jackson in an equine therapy program at Hopes, Dreams and Horses (“HDH”) of Jupiter Farms.  Prior to our initial consultation, I completed an extensive enrollment packet detailing Jackson’s diagnosis, abilities, restrictions and our goals.  Our first meeting was with Sue Copeland, Home Dreams and Horses’ Executive Director, and Program Director/equine therapist Carly Brown.  Ms. Brown immediately engaged Jackson in conversation.  We were given a tour of the facility and had a chance to meet the horses used in the program, as well as boarders.  Ms. Brown listened to my concerns attentively and assured me she would meet Jackson on his level, while working with him at his own pace and point of comfort.  I’m beyond pleased to say, this is precisely what she has done over the past several months.

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Initially, Jackson was extremely apprehensive.  He had been around horses before, however, he had never ridden one.  Instead, he was content to merely stand in close proximity, petting or grooming them—the bigger, the better.   He spent the first few sessions at HDH on the ground, talking to, petting and grooming whichever horse Ms. Brown selected for the session.  To be honest, I wasn’t certain Jackson would ever be agreeable to sitting astride a horse.  His sensory issues can be extremely overwhelming and limiting at times, which makes for a very stubborn and unyielding child.  There is no amount of coercing, bribery or cajoling that will call Jackson to action when he is uncomfortable or unfamiliar with a situation.  I will never forget the joy I felt when Jackson first mounted Bruno.  As nervous as I was, it brought tears to my eyes.

Following Instructions

Following Instructions

When I tell people Jackson participates in an equine therapy program, they presume he is taking riding lessons.  I cannot, nor will I, classify what he is doing as simply a riding lesson.  That would do a great disservice to the Hopes, Dreams and Horses equine therapy program.  What happens in these twice-weekly 30-minutes sessions is so much more.  God bless, Ms. Brown.  Seriously.  That girl has the patience of Job.  She and the volunteers are, as are all good therapists worth their salt, exceptional human beings.  Ms. Brown cares deeply about her clients and the program’s horses, so much so that I can’t tell you which she holds in higher regard.  That’s really saying something about folks with a true footing in the equine world.

His favorite horse, Blaze.

His favorite horse, Blaze.

Every single second at the stable and on horseback is an intense lesson for Jackson.  Truth be told, I think Jackson may have a minor glitch in his short-term memory.   This being said, each session requires much repetition.  Every action has meaning.  From hand, reign and body placement, to mounting the horse, to participating in the “scavenger hunt” type sessions, nuance matters.  Think about it.  How DO YOU maneuver a 1,200 pound horse alongside an arena rail, close enough to grab an item from a bucket affixed to the rail or post?  That takes thought and requires delicate finessing of the animal.  Riding requires so many subtle body movements, something that is challenging for someone who lacks intuition and has difficulty with fine motor skills.  Throw joint laxity and sensory integration/processing challenges into the mix and you can imagine how patient, tender and encouraging Ms. Brown and her staff must be.
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Perhaps one day Jackson will have that beautiful fluidity many riders exhibit atop their mounts.  In the meantime he has much work ahead of him.  I’m grateful that he’s having fun while he works so hard though.  And I find those 60 minutes we’re at HDH to be perhaps the most peaceful 60 minutes of my week.

Jackson and Blaze.  Unadulterated love.

Jackson and Blaze. Unadulterated love.

Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he/she will have to accept that his life will be radically changed. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The following benefits are excerpted from the Hopes, Dreams and Horses website. ( http://hopesdreamsandhorses.moonfruit.com/)

Benefits of equine interaction:

  • A sense of self; personal growth
  • Develops kills for healthy relationships
  • Develops trust and bonding
  • Increases confidence for boundary setting
  • Develops assertiveness (rather than aggressiveness)
  • Improves self-confidence
  • Reduces stress by achieving peace of mind
  • Behavior modification
  • Fosters interest in the outside world
  • Develops confidence to work through fears
  • Emotional control and self-discipline

Therapeutic horsemanship involves interaction with horses, staff, volunteers and other participants.  Benefits include:

  • Improved positive communication styles
  • Increased teamwork and socialization
  • Improved verbal and non-verbal communication
  • Recognition of body language
  • Fosters respect and love for people and animals
  • Encourages friendships; facilitates an equine family
  • Inspires independence
  • Provides social stimulation
  • Increases interest and enjoyment of the outdoors
  • Increased sense of responsibility and respect
  • Develops patience and understanding of others

Halloween

Halloween has come and gone.  Thankfully.  I’ve never been a big fan.  Even as a child it was a pretty disappointing holiday.  I grew up in a really rural area in Western Pennsylvania.  We literally lived in the middle of nowhere.  Our neighbors were half a mile or more away, depending on the direction you traveled. Add to this disappointment the fact that it was always bone chilling cold and Halloween was pretty much a bust.

Halloween was more celebratory when my daughter was a child.  We lived in a neighborhood with families and children, so she always had a great time.  Fast-forward twenty-five years to Halloween 2009 and I would have told you I expected more of the same with munchkin given our neighborhood.  Notice I said, “I would have told you,” not “I can tell you.”  That’s because it didn’t work out that way.  From Jackson’s very first Halloween he has fought any and every part of this cursed holiday.

Jackson has never accepted any type of costume—no matter how unobtrusive.  From checkered shirts and jeans (cowboy) to tank tops, shorts and sneakers (basketball player), Jackson has hated costumes.  Every bit of it is overload for him.  Too much chaos.  Too many people.  Too much noise.  Too many folks in his face grilling him as to why he isn’t participating in this silly, nonsensical event.  And let’s not forget he’s an extremely literal child.  The boy honestly thinks a person is permanently transformed when they put on any type of mask, makeup, prosthetic or outfit.

Until this year, the costume parades at school have yielded no better results.  The year before last the poor child was traumatized and clung to me while screaming at the top of his lungs.  Everything about Halloween is simply too much for him and by virtue of this, it’s too much for me too.

This year I came up with the idea of Jackson being Curious George and I would be The Man with the Yellow Hat.  Jackson thought this would be a great idea.  (He said it would be easy because he’s already brown.)  Of course he had very specific parameters for what would constitute his costume—short sleeves and shorts (w/no zippers or buttons).  That’s it.  That’s what was allowed.  It worked out perfectly.  I happened to have a brown knit tee and shorts that had been passed on to us from friends and added some construction paper monkey ears to one of my headbands.  Voila!  Curious George.  I was equally as lucky in pulling together my The Man with the Yellow Hat Costume.  We were a hit for the Characters in Literature Parade at Jackson’s school.  (Sounds so much better than Halloween Parade, don’t you think?)

Jackson had no desire to don his costume a second time to participate in the trick-or-treat aspect of Halloween.  Which is more than fine by me.  The child has never had a single, solitary piece of candy.  His choice.  So sitting out the door-to-door process is of absolutely no consequence to him whatsoever.

People appear to be utterly shocked when they ask how Jackson liked trick-or-treating.  And I feel like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas when I tell people I don’t like Halloween.  How about you?  Is there anyone else out there whose kiddos don’t enjoy “All Hallows Even?”  Image