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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

EFL for children with ASD and Aspergers

Dear Franklin,

I have been working alongside horses for many years with young people who believe they 'want' a horse of their own, assisting them with what I like to call Equine Awareness, those that I call a success at the end (probably 1 in 10) that understand what is required to be blessed with actually being able to look after one if these great creatures, I find this ensures most of the young people go away with some knowledge and will look after with respect an animal in their care.

I have seen first hand the change in my own son (ADHD) and other young people with anger issues, respect and some school problems, being here with my Equine friends and this has encouraged me to branch out into working with 10-25 yo youth at risk. I have been asked about bringing in young people with Autism. My question to you is this, do the horses that assist those with disabilities have to be 'bomb proof' as they say?

My horses have such different personalities they tend to decide who they are going to work with its quite amazing! It surprises me each time I see them working, helping young people in different ways, knowing what it is they need to do. Would they be suitable for working with young people with Asperger's, Autism and the like?

I hope you can help me with this.
Regards, Vicki

Hi Vicki,

Thank you for your kind donation to my help center and your desire to provide a wonderful service to both horses and humans. In my past experiences with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger's and horses, I have found that not all horses are suitable. As these children can often times be explosive and erratic in behavior, loud, fast moving, etc. not all horses will do well with it. However, some will do great with these children. I would suggest trying out your horses who do the best with children to begin with. Even to the point of having someone role play an individual with ASD or Asperger's with some of your horses to see how they do. They do not have to be “bomb proof” but a mature, experienced horse may be a good choice. I have had horses that would not seem to do well with these children, but actually do brilliantly when given the chance (keep it all very safe). They would tolerate and accept behavior from these kids (and even begin to care take them) they would not tolerate from a “normal” adult. Your abilities to ‘read’ horses in the moment are very important to this work.

A lot of people are doing this who shouldn’t be. I suggest you investigate which is an organization I began with several associates and professionals there in Australia to teach this process at a high level so it is very safe, fun and effective. This organization offers many benefits to those wishing to do this work.

Your statement that the animals gravitate to just the right person in a group is basic to the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy process (EAP). Truthfully, I am not a fan of EAP as the horses tend to be objectified and used as living inkblot tests. A horse may gravitate to an individual for a number of reasons and not just because it wants to somehow help that person or because it feels an empathetic experience with that person. However, this is generally how it is interpreted. Please be wary of projecting too much of your own agenda and desire onto your horses. Allow them to be horses without the projection of your stuff. This is why I say there are folks doing EAP (EGALA for instance) who are merely using the horse to psychoanalyze a human. Better to take apart a lawnmower and put the parts in a pile and have the person go and assemble it. Then process the human through that experience. Or, some such exercise. I think psychoanalysis belongs on a professionals couch and not at the expense of a sentient being. However, learning from horses appropriately is extremely valuable. But I don’t think most folks understand horses well enough to really help facilitate this. There is just too much projection.

It sounds like you are doing some great work. I support it. I do it myself. Do it with the highest consciousness and respect for and around the horse as possible. This is the one huge flaw in the work. Best wishes to you always. Keep up the great work and thank you again for your kindness and generosity. Keep me posted please. I teach in Oz every year.

Sincerely, Franklin

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