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Archive for April, 2009

This is an interesting one. I think I spent the early years of Archie’s life post diagnosis attempting to overcome autism. As he grew it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen for him. He’s nearly 10 now, and whilst he makes progress all the time he’s still severely autistic and has only one clear word (‘Mummy’- which would probably rather selfishly be my one word of choice ). Consequently ideas of overcoming autism have sort of slowly gone out of the window and instead we’ve had to think of ways for him to have a full and happy life with autism being part and parcel of it. 

And so ensuring his life was full of fun experiences became a bit of a goal. And every day he’s not at school we try and do something, whether it’s climbing a lighthouse, or going for a walk on Dartmoor, visiting the beach or even visiting the local campervan showroom. Finding something that works isn’t always easy (today for example we drove to the beach, where Archie refused to leave the car, he did enjoy the ferry trip on the way, and we did get to eat ice cream so hey ho). Something that has helped us access the more exciting stuff this has been specialist events. For example he’s attended specialist climbing sessions and trampoline classes and have a fantastic day surfing on a surfboard adapted to carry two people at once. I’ve added a couple of photos below, just because I love them. And I think they capture the point of this post which is that a happy life is one which offers opportunities to access events and different experiences. 

surf1

 

surf-2
Which brings me onto the International Association for Life Quality. Based in the United States, this new organisation is dedicated to improving life quality for people with developmental disabilities. They will be offering online caregiver training, life coach training and a chance to network online with others. It’s been set up by TERI Inc who provide services to children and adults with autism and learning disabilities. The website states that “the Association for Life Quality is an organization dedicated to identifying and removing barriers to a quality life for those who have developmental disabilities and their families” which seems a pretty good aim to me, and something worth finding out more about.

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I meant to add this to the review about The Horse Boy book! The Isaacson family have now set up a foundation just outside Austin, Texas, where people can bring children with special needs to ride horses. They provide the premises, the horses and trained staff to help you with whatever it is you want to do. They do not charge and instead ask for donations. 

I’d be over there now if I thought we could get Archie on a plane. Currently our only possible means of travel to the States appears to be the QM2, so we may have to wait a few years!

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The Horse Boy

  

The Horse Boy – A father’s miraculous journey to heal his son’ tells the story of Rowan. Diagnosed with autism aged 3, Rowan’s parents found life becoming increasingly difficult in the years following the diagnosis. Rowan loved being outdoors and so his father Rupert Isaacson, a British ex horse-trainer would often take Rowan out to be in the open. One day whilst exploring the woods behind their house Rowan ran onto the nieghbours property and into his herd of five horses, where he threw himself onto the ground in front of the alpha mare, Betsy. Known to be a little on the grumpy and feisty side, Rupert was amazed  to see Betsy dipping her head and mouthing Rowan with her lips. This is how horses signal submission and was something that Rupert had never seen so quickly before. A few weeks later Rupert visited the United Nations with a group of Bushmen from the Kalahari where he was helping them with land claims. This visit coincided with a convention of traditional healers. Something which Rupert had become interested in after observing healings during his time working with the bushmen. And so he introduced Rowan to the healers and found immediately afterwards that he said his first real words “green” and “green grass” and became calmer. Positive changes, but ones that didn’t last on returning home. However, this gave Rupert the idea of combining horses and healing and so the idea of a trip to Mongolia to visit shaman on horseback was born, and eventually resulted in this incredible journey.

I have to admit I was reluctant to read this book. Not so much because of the healing, I know healers and believe that they can have great effects. It was the byline to the book the ‘miraculous journey to heal his son’ that put me off. When you have a child who is 9 years old and still non-verbal ‘miraculous cure’ books can be depressing reads. Partly because they frame the sort of autism my son has as something terrible, as the worst thing in the world, and as something to be pitied and seen as a tragedy. Which isn’t really how I see my son’s life. However, I was wrong, this book is nothing like that. Early on in the book Rupert makes the distinction between healing and cure, an important one and whilst he clearly wants Rowan to progress, to become toilet trained and to speak there’s no sense of autism being something that needs to be destroyed.

Rupert has the gift of being able to describe the difficulties of autism realistically but with acceptance. I identified with the book so much because I felt his family had taken a similar journey to ours. From slipping into drinking too much as a way of dealing with stress, to noticing the lack of ego that accompanies autism, to coming to some sort of peace with the condition out in the open. For me the moment of acceptance came on Dartmoor, when sat with Archie in the middle of nowhere I could see that he was getting as much pleasure out of the experience as me. And I realised then that life is abut experiences, and autism didn’t need to limit those. This book is a fine example of that. 

Rowan although higher functioning than Archie has so many similarities this is another book where we seem to be sharing aspects of our lives. Rowan’s difficulties in journeys centre around obsessions an compulsions, just like Archie, Rowan adores the outdoors and space, just like Archie. Rowan seems to get some peace from the wilderness – just like Archie. And of course horses. Archie loves riding and its something we’re planning to do more often. 

This book left me with a longing to make a journey. Richard horrified, muttered ‘you’re not going to get me on horseback in bloody Mongolia.’ I reassured him that I wasn’t that ambitious but perhaps we’ll look at a smaller journey. This book has reminded me that we need to pack our lives full of experiences, and autism doesn’t need to limit those.

You tube trailer for the film:

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