The Derby (originally published 5/4/09)

Been away from the blog awhile. Sorry, but I ran up against some deadlines. And baseball started for little Murr, so I’ve been spending time at games/practices watching him fill his glove with dirt, perform perfect pirouettes in the outfield and pay attention to everything but the game. Ahhh, t-ball!
Let’s talk about horses. I mean, it’s only fitting after Derby weekend, right? (By the way, could Calvin Borel be any more excited about winning for the second time in three years? Check it out. The nuttiness starts around the 3:30 mark.)
I read a book review in the Times about a father taking his son, who has been diagnosed with autism, on a trip to visit Shamans and ride horses in Mongolia. (Spoiler Alert: the kid dramatically improves!) 

The most interesting thing about the article, to me, though, was a sidebar discussion the author had with several “experts” in the field. She asked them “whether the book offers important insights or false hope for families coping with autism.” 

She spoke to Temple Grandin, doctors, and advocates. The opinions were all across the spectrum (get it???) Some thought it was fine to discuss and learn more (I’m hanging out in their camp!) and others thought is was merely filling parents heads with “false hope.” Sorry if I offend, but I’ve heard too many stories that begin with “The dotors said he/she would never __________” Insert “walk,” “talk,” “live to see high school,” “hold a job,” or “get arrested for riding his bike in Kmart.” (True story!) 

Anyway, it’s something near and dear to my heart for a number of reasons. First of all, the incidence of autism is going up. That’s a big deal and should be a huge concern to everyone. Secondly, I like learning about the intricacies and curious circumstances around autism. It really seems like a puzzle to me. Like the answer is out there, but we’re not putting the pieces together yet. 

For example, did you know that in Minneapolis, Somali children are making up a disproportionately larger percentage of children diagnosed with autism? Or how about the fact that kids with autism seem to improve when they’re running a fever? What do these clues mean? How do they fit together? Is there a cure or solution to stemming the tide of autism in our children? 

I think (hope, pray) the answer lies in between traditional medicine doing more research on these extreme cases (fevers, Somalis, etc.) and individualized alternative holistic therapies that explore what makes that individual react postively. I’ve talked to people involved with Cincinnati Therapeutic Riding and Horsemanship, and they’ll tell you that parents see a calmer, more confident and happier kid when they’re up on that horse. I wonder if it works for all kids, or only those who are inclined to like horses in the first place. That would only make sense, right? It might even make horse sense. (Sorry…two lame jokes in one post. My bad!) 

I cannot wait to see where the research on autism takes us, and it’s just as exciting in the meantime to watch the new and varied techniques being developed to help each person with autism lead full and happy lives. 

p.s. For those of you in the Bluegrass, Milestones in Independence also offers hippotherapy. I don’t know much about them, so if you have an opinion or ringing endorsement, please leave it in the comments!
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