Friday, April 20, 2012

Autism Awareness Month

Friday, April 20, 2012 

40° here on the mountain this morning. The birds everywhere are singing morning welcomes from the loons on Peacham Pond to the robins and warblers here at the house. A pair of mallards just touched down on the trout pond as the sun rises slowly. Everywhere I look, things seem in order for a very nice day.

April is a busy time at Vermont Flower Farm and at times I stray from my writing responsibilities, not because I want to but because there are so many things going on. Today for example I head out early to the dentist for the "delivery" of another crown and then I am off to FW Webbs to pick up the last parts for the new pump station installation. I have a load of fertilizer to pick up and then need to stop at Plainfield Hardware for a stove pipe fitting for the writers cottage. It will probably be noon before I get back to Marshfield and can work away at various projects in hopes of beating the impending rains. Days like today tire an old guy and writing often gets postponed.

All gardeners have other responsibilities just like me. In August 1992, my son Alex was born at 8:30 AM. What was supposed to be a straightforward delivery became complicated and during the week stay for him and Gail at the hospital, I wondered if he would ever stop crying and what exactly was wrong. I can't say that I was especially enamored with the hospital folks as they pointed out things like "new mother", "trouble feeding son", things like that, but I figured when we got home that would all change. Happily we got home and unhappily Alex cried for about 6 months straight. It took about eight years to figure out that the day Alex was born he became the latest member of Vermont's population on the autism spectrum. It wasn't an especially enlightening affair to me and I doubted everything people suggested until I brought myself to the reality. That story brings me to Autism Awareness Month which is celebrated during April. I am mentioning autism here in a blog about gardening because with autism ratios of 1 in 88 births, the incidence of autism in the world will soon touch everyone, including gardeners, their families, friends and communities.


As time went on we learned a lot about autism and we studied every therapy we learned about. One therapy suggested developing a relationship between a person and horses and was known as hippotherapy. I learned of it as therapeutic riding and Gail found of a program at a Marshfield neighbor's horse farm. Before much time passed, Alex was working with staff at Water Tower Farm in a well known program,  Rhythm of the Rein Therapeutic Riding. He continued with the program for three years and made incredible progress that began with learning about horse care and ended with him riding solo. I cannot say enough about this program, or about owner/trainer Dianne Lashoones and her staff.

As you scroll through these pictures you'll see Alex in the very early days of his training. He acclimated to the horses very quickly and he leaned to care for them, saddle and unsaddle and ride in between. There is something almost tranquilizing about being with such a big animal and riding along. The program mellowed him out so well and it was a program that he wanted to participate in.

As you read more about the program Dianne offers, you'll note that it benefits children and adults of all abilities. It has shown excellent progress with vets and I have heard mention of some super results with those affected by post traumatic stress disorder too.

Seeing is believing and if you wonder if this program would be good for someone you know, give Dianne a call and set up a time to go watch the program in operation. To be honest, there were times with Alex when I would find myself standing by the sideline in the arena talking to a barn cat or two with tears in my eyes over what Alex was doing. Therapeutic riding works!

So as April moves well into its second half, think about autism, who you know and what autism is. Alex will be twenty this August and a lot has changed since the day he first climbed onto a horse. In the world of autism we know a whole bunch more about treatment now but we still haven't learned enough about the etiology. If you can, make a donation to one of the autism research programs or talk to Dianne about sponsoring a rider who needs some help.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where two noisy ravens just landed in the maple over the compost pile. They are apparently discussing what looks good for breakfast.

Have a great day and get that outside work done before the rains begin.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens and also as George Africa
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm

We're always ready to help you grow your green thumb!

The nursery opens on Mothers Day but we are there about every day now. If the gate is open, stop by. Bring questions and smiles!


ell said...

what a great story George; horses are amazing and share so much with autism as both are worlds of fight or flight... If ever Alex wants a horse of his own, I have a couple of 'pet horses' (no riding for them per their racing injuries) who are expert huggers...give me a shout...
Happy trails to you and yours xxo

S Cooley said...

Wonderful to read about and see photos of Alex...Gail knows my love of horses and I can understand how this must have worked well. You are such good parents- always finding things that add to Alex's life.

Sheila Schultz said...

I had horses when I was young and they gave me such peace. As an adult I was lucky to work with an amazing young occupational therapist that understood that horses could provide the therapy to so many that humans could not.