Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Horse Boy - A Spiritual Approach to Autism - Part I

I've given National Poetry month some attention recently but April is also Autism Awareness month. If you are interested in autism or live with someone "on the spectrum", you will be interested in this series of interviews with author Rupert Isaacson, who, among other things traveled to Mongolia to seek treatment for his son Rowan's autistic symptoms. His book The Horse Boy has recently been made into a documentary with the same title.

As an educator with significant experience and training in autism spectrum disorders, I've developed a simple philosophy around it. I believe that every child diagnosed with ASD can be reached. What it takes is parents who follow their heart and gut when it comes their child and an educational and/or therapeutic environment (that could include the outdoors as a classroom) that supports it. When the public school system can't or won't see things the parents' way, they have to be pushed and prodded and even, at times, threatened. I personally would not put my own child (autistic or neurotypical) in the hands of any public school system without careful evaluation of what is going on there. I'm sad to say, it is more often than not that this happens to our children.

A bold approach to diet and health can't hurt either, if it's implemented as a result of careful investigation and consultation with an expert who is on the same page as the parents. And as always, a close connection to the child that allows you to pay attention to their needs.

Clearly, most parents can't afford to up and move to Mongolia to treat their child's autism but I think the Isaacsons have the right idea. It's too bad that people can't see what they can do for their children when the resources are often right under their noses.

I don't have any particularly strong stances against the major autism groups such as Autism Speaks or Autism Society of America but at my core, I don't care for the puzzle piece as a symbol for autism. I can understand the reason for choosing a recognizable logo that represents a complex neurological condition but I can't see defining any group of people as a"puzzle". I believe it actually sends the wrong message to people who do not know anyone with autism - that they are too complex to get to know and like. Autism is complex but people who live with it have the same needs as everyone else. They respond to humor, attention, and intellectual stimulation; and most universally, they respond to love and inclusiveness. We all need those things to live happy lives and to grow to our "personal best" potential.Therefore, I prefer the autism rainbow.

I'll be writing more about autism in the coming weeks and perhaps more often, always. As it should be when one cares a lot about something!

Peace, love and all groovy things,
Pagan Sphinx

Now for the interview.


  1. I fully agree with you, Gina. This was such an interesting video. Thank you.
    I have learned so much about autism through blogging. My favorite being from Casdok at motherofshrek.blogspot.com, with her 21 year old son. And of course there is Linda, aka SnoopMurph. I think you know her. And others as well.

    As Mr. Isaacson learned, there is not a "cure", and really, why should there be? These children are who they are, and have so much to contribute. We love them for who they are, not for what we thought they should be.

  2. I just listened to the first ten minutes and plan on hearing the rest. It's truly an extraordinary story. The old cultures have so much wisdom that I hope in my deepest self that we still have time to learn. Our culture demands that we fit into certain molds and ignores or demonizes anyone who lives outside its very narrow description of what constitutes normality. Thanks for posting this and I'll look forward to reading more.

  3. Thanks Bobbie and Susan, for taking the time to think for a moment about autism. It is so prevalent now - about 1 in 100 children diagnosed in the U.S. and in other places, even higher.

    I think research is important but I don't see how a cure is anywhere on the horizon. For now, I believe it is society that needs curing! But that has always been my motto!

  4. society sure does need curing
    speaking very broadly we'd all be happier if we opened our minds and hearts

    I just came from a post written by someone I consider a good person, she's always been kind and friendly to me
    She posted her negative feelings about a local story of public assistance given to a 21 year old girl who has been an alcoholic since she was 12
    I sensed her frustration and believe she was over personalizing the situation since she is struggling with her own finances
    Then I made the mistake of reading the comments, all this anger and hatred - blaming "illegals" and "Dems" and "Obama" - this woman doesn't even life in the states!! of course there was no mention of Wall Street thieves or billion dollar bonuses, just bashing of people who have little, as if taking it from them would make their lives better

    I was so disgusted and then you were my next stop and I feel lighter again

    Thanks for that

  5. In my view anyone who is an alcoholic starting at such a young age has a terrible life and terrible problems. Why condemn someone for needing help?

    And I have often thought the same thing as you: the corporate thieves who rob us blind, trash our environment for profit and deny people the health benefits they've been paying into (insurance industry) get away literally with murder and yet it is the poor and disenfranchised who get shat upon for taking a benefit they qualify for. Never ceases to disturb me.

    Thanks for you thoughts, Dianne.


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