We have two main programs: Horse Boy Method, an equine therapy that addresses the nervous system and builds neuro-plasticity for autism, ADD and other related conditions; and Movement Method a kinetic learning program applicable for both home and classroom, as well as for both special needs and general education.
Our programs are where science meets joy!
Mainstream and Special Needs
This is truly effective learning: getting rid of the cell danger response in the brain which blocks learning, and activating the learning centers of the brain to create both longer term learning and real neuro-plasticity (i.e. better brain function).
We have programs designed for both special needs and neuro-typical ("normal") children, from pre school right through to pre-college, and which can be applied in both home school and regular class room environments.
We have been developing these techniques since 2004 and now work with a variety of schools and home school cooperatives as well as with therapists, parents, teachers, and other professionals across 20 countries and rising.
Currently more than 25,000 families and children benefit from our approaches each week.
What many people do not understand is the link between movement and the main learning centers of the brain. We go into this in great detail in our science section, but suffice to say here that the right kind of movement - moving while problem solving - activates the cerebellum, the vestibular system, and the pre-frontal cortex and in addition both oxygenates the brain and causes it to produce more neurons - literally growing the IQ as you move. This is well known in Scandinavian countries, who have adapted their education systems accordingly, and now dominate the international academic rankings, especially in math and science. Most other countries are lagging way behind.
Our Movement Method lesson plans are available for both home-schoolers and regular school teachers - and they work! We currently have about 135 such modules for all cognitive and academic levels in math and science, and we are constantly developing new ones with our experts at the University of Osnabrueck in Germany, the University of Texas at Austin and others.
The world of education and therapy is changing fast. Knowledge of neuro-science and neuro-plasticity, as well as strategies for eliminating stress, shame, and punishment - i.e. fear, which activates the cell danger response that in turn blocks learning - is becoming essential. The old educational modules are not able to keep pace.
Movement Method is at the forefront of this change.
For families looking for services check out this page for Movement Method Mentors in your area, for teachers and therapists wanting to become a Mentor click here, for families, therapists and teachers looking to access our courses and modules, click here.
Horse Boy Method
Autism, ADD, ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, Stress
Regular therapeutic riding does not work for autism, and its related conditions. This is because the methodologies of traditional therapeutic riding were created to address physical disability, and rely on the student being able to follow top down instruction (i.e. having a neuro-typical brain), and having a motivation to ride horses in the first place. Autists often cannot follow top down instruction (especially not in the early years), may not be motivated to ride horses, or may be intimidated by the horse, and the regular riding school environment (bossy people, lots of rules, bad sensory triggers and so on) is completely wrong for most autistic people. In fact, the traditional therapeutic riding approach can often trigger the cell danger response in the autistic brain, and do actual harm.
Horse Boy Method was designed specifically to address the brain and nervous system, and its inventor Rupert Isaacson was mentored from the get go by Dr. Temple Grandin and other adult autists, as well as by his own autistic son Rowan, in how to design the approach.
It goes far beyond horses.
Horse Boy Method centers set up an environment in which there are no bad sensory triggers, and take an empathetic approach that allows the child to lead so as not to activate the fear centers of the brain, which shut down communication and learning. When the child rides, we either share the saddle with them or drive the horse in long lines so that we can create balanced rhythms that in turn rock the rider's pelvis in a way that relaxes the psoas muscle and creates the hormone oxytocin. This hormone is not just the hormone of well being and happiness but also of communication.
The traditional therapeutic riding approach of leading a horse by the head can create the opposite effect, making the child tilt forward and tense the psoas muscle, which while ok for physical disability can sadly have a harmful effect on an autistic child, because a contracted psoas muscle activates the amygdala which is the fear center of the brain, and then makes the body produce the stress hormone cortisol - which blocks learning.
Horse Boy Method not only fills the child with the communication hormone oxytocin but it also provides several other beneficial effects for the brain and nervous system.
When riding with the child or driving them in long reins, we are a voice in the child's ear rather than a challenging frontal gaze, which can again trigger the child's fear centers. One of the most misguided things one can do in autism therapy is to insist on eye-contact - it can trigger cortisol which makes learning impossible. By eliminating this danger we make it safe for the child to receive information.
Also while riding with the child, we give them deep pressure, which many people on the autism spectrum crave as a need, and we can then go out to explore the exterior world.
Autism means "selfism" (the word auto is greek for the self) - the difficulty is the relationship with the exterior world: working with the horse this way takes the child out into the exterior world and helps bridge this relationship.
We also work directly on the child's sensory needs, using direct body to body contact on a static horse in ways shown to us by autistic people that work best for them. In addition we address the whole family's needs, providing activities for all and a healing environment in which techniques learned on a horse can be applied to play equipment and be taken home, so the therapies can continue long after the sessions have ended.
Finally Horse Boy Method builds the brain through rule based games (essential for neuro-plasticity) and introduces academics including literacy, numeracy and more, and finally sets the child up to teach us about what interests them. When a child begins to teach you, you know that executive functioning is working at the optimum level.
We are not limited to horses but have all kinds of social animals trained to interact, and we know how to get the same effects on play equipment as on the horses, so that we can follow whatever interest the child has at any time and keep the neuro-plasticity going.
Horse Boy Method is not a replacement for regular therapeutic riding, it's an addition. Regular therapeutic riding centers are often very good at addressing physical disability, but lack an effective strategy for the brain and nervous system. Horse Boy Method fills this gap.
Check out the video below to hear what one of our moms experienced while at Horse Boy. Her experience is typical:
You can also find what the neuro-scientists have to say by clicking here, but the fact remains that autism parents get their best information from other parents.
For therapeutic riding instructors wanting to learn the Method click here.