Posts Tagged ‘EAAT’

Claudine Pelletier-Milet, author of RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM, with Rupert Isaacson, author of THE HORSE BOY.

Claudine Pelletier-Milet, author of RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM, with Rupert Isaacson, author of THE HORSE BOY.

“On one occasion, Steven was as usual carried away with the thrill of riding,” Claudine Pelletier-Milet writes in her book RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM. “He leaped off without losing his balance and in the most agile way. He rushed up to his mother, crying out, ‘Mom!’ and they hugged each other. His mother later told me that this was the first time she had experienced such a fond embrace.”

It seemed only a matter of time before Claudine had a chance to meet and work with Rupert Isaacson, author of the international bestselling book The Horse Boy, which tells the story of his and his wife’s journey across Mongolia on horseback to find healing for their son and for themselves as a family after their son, Rowan, was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. Rupert recounts how something extraordinary happened when Rowan encountered a neighbor’s horse—a new, profound calm fell over him. Rupert saw that his distant, unreachable son had a real connection with the horse, and when he began riding with Rowan, his son began to improve remarkably.

Claudine and Steven, one of her students.

Claudine and Steven, one of her students.

For years, Claudine, a French riding instructor, has been using equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) to form and nurture lines of communication while encouraging a healthy and natural evolution of self in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Rupert read her book RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM and arranged to meet with her in France to discuss their common experiences, her methods, and his own Horse Boy Method, which is now being taught around the world in order to better help children with ASD. Astoundingly, today one child for every 88 born, and one boy for every 58, will be diagnosed as on the autism spectrum.

“We don’t try to teach riding as they do in regular therapeutic riding barns because autistic kids learn differently, so our program is tailored to that,” Rupert says in the December 2012 article “The Horse Boy Method” in Dressage Today magazine. “We are not an equestrian center. If a kid emerges as a rider, we go with it, otherwise we hope that we and our horses can serve them in the best way we can.”

Similarly, Claudine simply strives to use horses as a conduit to learning to exist in our loud, tactile, “real world,” which every day presents the autistic child with challenges.

“The pony carries them, rocks them, favors the acceptance of physical contact, and understands their efforts at communication,” writes Claudine in RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM. “It helps them build up an image of themselves by causing their posture to rectify itself, and it gives them free lessons in sensory awareness with its smells, sights, and sounds. It opens them to the real world.”



The experiences both Rupert and Claudine have shared in their books, and continue to share in their work with children and with other teachers, can go a long way to giving families and caregivers great hope for every autistic child’s future.

As always, it is the horse that gives us what we need to be strong, grow as individuals, and care for one another.

RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM is available from the TSB online bookstore.




Read the December 2012  article about Rupert Isaacson and the Horse Boy Method in Dressage Today by clicking on the image below:

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In April, National Autism Awareness Month, Trafalgar Square Books was pleased to release RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM, a new book that chronicles one riding teacher’s experiences using equine-assisted activities and therapy to instill confidence and promote independence in children with autism spectrum disorders.

RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM was originally published in the French language, but we at TSB felt the author’s inspirational stories of the challenges and joys she experiences in her work with children and ponies worth sharing. We hope it can serve as one more window through which we can begin to understand the autistic individual and what helps him or her develop a sense of self and learn to communicate with others.

The cover of the English edition of RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM features a wonderful photo taken by Kenan Cooper of a young man named Matthew, on a lovely horse, with his arms outstretched and a huge smile on his face. Matt began riding horses when he was four years old. But until then, Matt spent most of his time on the floor, lying on the couch, or in bed. He did not have the core strength to stay in an upright position. He could not kick, catch, or throw a ball—all simple things that many parents watch their small children do with ease.

When Matt began riding at Wings & Hooves Therapeutic Riding, Inc, of East Kingston, New Hampshire, “I began to witness a miracle unfold,” says Matt’s grandmother. “The riding brought such inner peace to Matthew. He went home happy and so proud of what he did with his horse each day. Over time, he sat up straight for longer and longer periods on horseback, and today, his instructor and side-walkers tell me Matt sits up for the entire lesson. The benefits of his therapeutic riding are immeasurable. For one hour a week, it is just Matt and his horse—a creature who in no way judges him, but supports him in mind, body, and spirit.”

The horse Matt is riding on the cover of RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM is Khlassic, an Arabian gelding who left behind his successful career showing in halter and hunter-pleasure classes to help new riders at Wings & Hooves (www.wingsandhooves.org), become GREAT riders, full of confidence and ready to do anything to which they set their mind.

“While the benefits of therapeutic riding and horsemanship activities have been medically documented, statistics alone cannot fully describe the true value of this service,” explains Karen Cuneo, founder and lead instructor of Wings & Hooves. “The look of confidence, pride, and achievement on a student’s face when they have successfully completed a task on horseback is the most profound measure of its value. The skills gained and abilities discovered at Wings & Hooves enrich life-skill development in each of our students. Such life skills are important, not only to the student and his or her family today, but the future and the greater good of community.”

Karen was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus at the age of 20, and has received three subsequent kidney transplants, so she has experienced firsthand the powerful, healing nature of the horse.

At Wings & Hooves Therapeutic Riding, Inc, children and adults discover how working with horses can help them surmount all manner of personal challenges.

“Throughout my illnesses and recovery periods,” she says, “I realized that when I was with my horses and riding, I didn’t think about anything else but the horse I was with—not work, not life, not my illness or the circumstances surrounding the illness…my vision was then very clear: I wanted to share the magic of the horse with others facing their own personal challenges—whatever they may be. As I say to my riders, ‘Your eyes are the horse’s eyes’…your horse sees, feels, and reacts through you…they are a mirror of you. People of all ages can comprehend this, and the trust, bond, and relaxation begins.”

Wings & Hooves Therapeutic Riding, Inc, provides therapeutic horseback instruction to children and adults with physical, emotional, and developmental challenges. You can find out more about instruction, special events, and opportunities to volunteer on their website www.wingsandhooves.org.


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In order to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism, the United States recognizes April as a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community. This month, Trafalgar Square Books is pleased to release the new book RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM.

Over the last 15 years, Claudine Pelletier-Milet has worked at her horseback riding stable in France, outside the mainstream debate about autism and its causes, creating a magical world in which her horses and ponies help her autistic students (her “magnificent horsemen,” as she calls them) develop on their own time in a joyful and relaxed atmosphere.

When we read how Pelletier-Milet’s horses open doors to the autistic individual, inviting him into the vast world that surrounds him to discover new sensations and learn to control his emotions and fears, we thought sharing her stories—originally published in the French language and with a French audience in mind—worth translating. We feel Pelletier-Milet’s personal experiences with autistic children, and the transformation she has witnessed time and again in the saddle, remain a universal source of inspiration and hope, and one that should be shared, regardless of native land or language.

Join Trafalgar Square Books in getting involved with the autism community this April. RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE. Blog Bonus!! Enter the coupon code TSBBLOG15 at checkout and receive 15% off your entire order!

A note from David Walser, translator of RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM

I was asked to translate RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM by Trafalgar Square Books, and when I finished the first draft, I decided to go to France to meet Claudine [the author]. I found the experience of meeting her and seeing her at work electrifying. She is clearly an exceptional person with very special gifts. What, of course, one has to ask is: can a book describe what she does clearly enough to be of some help to the reader? I hope with all my heart that it will.

When I was watching a session, Claudine put [one of her autistic students, Steven] in front so that he had to lead the group and the transitions from trot to canter…he kept on turning his head around to look at all the others in the class following him, his face lit up by a large smile and keeping perfect balance.

Consequently, though, his pony would then drop the pace, leading to a little “pile-up” as the other children, barreling along on their ponies, caught up with him. A cheerful shout from Claudine soon had him breaking into a canter again and all was well—for a time.

When Claudine walked toward a small obstacle and shouted to Steven, “Like to do some jumping, Steven?” “No,” he said quite firmly, but Claudine put the jump across the track and raised its single pole on two plastic standards. Steven could easily have avoided it as he led his little train around the perimeter, but not a bit of it. He glided over in a perfect jump, his body flexing and leaning forward like a seasoned rider, while some of the others followed suit.

 “Well done, Steven! You are a great rider!” shouted Claudine and his face became wreathed in smiles.

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Once the walking, trotting, cantering, and jumping were over, we set off in a line of ponies and parents, with Claudine at the front, shouting encouragement to everyone. We headed for the wood of beech and oak, and the pine forest…Steven still led the line, from time to time looking directly behind him, but without in any way showing signs of being off balance. Later, on the walk, I asked a mother of a child without autism whether she thought it was a good thing for the children to be exposed to a child with ASD. “Certainly,” she replied, “It just widens their perception of what is ‘normal.’ They do not see the autistic child as being different from them. When you see them all together, you often cannot tell who is autistic and who not. Claudine treats them all exactly the same and so they treat each other similarly.”

 “[My autistic students are] not children with an illness,” says Claudine. “They are people who often have special qualities, including being highly sensitive and intelligent, but just with their own way of looking at the world. Their development has been arrested at an early stage and they have turned in on themselves, so we have to help them to come out of hiding and to allow their special gifts to flourish.”

I had the feeling that Claudine would miss Steven terribly if he were to go…though I know she will welcome it when the time is right: he is so affectionate with her that on the first occasion that I met him, he rushed into her loving embrace, showering her with kisses and hugs while his mother and father looked on with appreciative smiles.


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