Horses May Help Ease Some of the Symptoms of Autism

Many children have experienced improved behavior through therapy with animals.

A popular alternative treatment for children on the autism spectrum has been to have animals incorporated into therapy sessions. In particular, research has shown that interaction with horses has eased many of the symptoms of those with the disorder. Author Rupert Isaacson has pioneered the Horse Boy Method, which focuses on having the child interact with a horse. The foundation incorporates workshops, as well as 3-day or weeklong camp experiences.

Mr. Isaacson states that there is a wonderful psychological power to horses, and this power can help those dealing with obstacles that often come from the disorder. Mr. Isaacson noticed a special interaction between his non-verbal autistic son and the horses that he came across. “The moment I put Rowan on [the horse’s] back, he began to speak. A light bulb went off in my head,” he states.  After so many failed attempts at getting his son to express himself, he was confident that animal interaction could have an incredible effect on children and adults with ASD.

Mr. Isaacson is aware that many people are skeptical of this approach, but emphasizes that  primary focus should be to follow the child and how they are responding to this new interaction. “When you [are horseback riding] with the child in front of you, which is how we do it in Horse Boy, you can create these really dance-like rhythms. The reason it feels so good is it fills your body with a feel-good hormone called oxytocin, and the child who is racked with anxiety, with sensory discomfort, gets this industrial-sized shot of bliss hormone.” They have witnessed first-hand the improved behaviors among children that have participated in the program, with the children simply feeling at ease.

Although there is not a lot of scientific evidence to back Mr. Isaacson’s approach, there is currently a new wave of researchers who are looking into these alternative therapy methods. In addition, many parents have seen incredible benefits from having their child help take care of a pet, so participating in therapy with horses is something that many are willing to try.

Rowan Isaacson has made a lot of progress over his years of therapy. He has even started his own web-based TV series that focuses on animal characters. Mr. Isaacson is thrilled that his son has been able to better express himself, as well as find something he is so passionate about.  Mr. Isaacson is determined to expand Horse Boy and have other children and parents experience the benefits of animal therapy. His mission is to contribute to a society better integrates autistic individuals, allowing them to utilize their skills and interests.  

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