special need child

Exceptional Families with Exceptional Kids

by Christopher Auer

Helping the Child with Special Needs through Spring's Rebirth

Now that winter is officially over, I can look back with some relief that I drive a four wheel drive. It seemed as though every weekend it snowed. Not just a little, a lot! While my children loved to play in the mounds of snow at first, eventually cabin fever set in, especially for my son who is diagnosed with ADHD and sensory processing disorder.

Now that we've had weather befitting the start of spring, I have come to appreciate the importance of nature for children in general, but especially for children with special needs, including children with ADHD, cognitive delays, autism and any of the other myriad of disorders. I'm amazed at how calm children are when they've had a chance to go on a hike, or play outside in the yard for a few hours. It's the best free medicine I know.

I've also come to appreciate the gift of animals. My wife and I have been talking about getting a horse for several years. Many of her relatives either own a ranch, or work on a ranch. Last weekend, we went to a Horse Expo to 'look', though secretly hoping that the other would make the first move towards ownership.

As we walked the stalls, we came across a quarter-horse by the name of Jeffrey. To make a long story short, we rode him, wrote a hot check, frantically searched for a place to put Jeffrey (hotels don't leave their light on for horses), found a place, deposited 'funny money' to cover the check, realized that we didn't have a saddle or any means of riding, and finally asked for help from someone who knew about horses.

I'm proud to say that we've been to the barn every night since acquiring our new family member. I now understand how useful animals can be for therapy. My wife is certified to do hippo therapy (occupational therapy on a horse), and has worked with our children on Jeffrey. Even in only a week, the results are impressive. All of my children, especially my child with special needs, are better able to focus, follow directions, more patient, and just better able to cope with life. I'm not sure how much of this is due to being outside all evening, or actually riding Jeffrey.

Regardless, it's clear to me how deprived many of our children are from natural living. While it may seem that television is calming for our children, the best therapy is probably in your own backyard, or at the park. It's being outside, enjoying the sounds, sights and smells of our planet and the company of other living creatures.

This spring, I hope that you and your family spend many, many lazy hours enjoying our amazing planet and renewing your spirit. There is so much to look forward to in the months ahead. I can't wait to barbecue corn on the cob, and anything else that will work on a barbecue - especially since it cuts down on the amount of dishes I need to wash.