Getting *Jeff’s Attention

May 1, 2015

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After his third visit to the barn I asked “what do you think Smoke the horse is trying to tell you?” Jeff replied, “she likes me.” Smoke reached down and nuzzled Jeff with her soft nose. Jeff scratched behind her ears and talked to her. This was quite a contrast to the 8-year-old boy who reportedly had trouble paying attention in class and at home. When Jeff didn’t get his way, we would often hit others.

The horse arena is a great mirror of life, and during the first session, Jeff looked at everything except the horse. That was, until he led Smoke over a rut in the arena and she stumbled, pulling hard at the lead rope.  Startled, Jeff decided to watch where he was going after that.

In a follow-up session Jeff was asked to construct a course to lead Smoke through.  Cones were spaced close together in a jagged line. Jeff walked the course to show us the way to navigate. Next, he walked through leading Smoke, but paid little attention to her. She knocked over a few cones and avoided the rest as best she could.   Successive courses were more intricate, but cones were still placed very close together.  I asked Jeff what Smoke might be thinking about the obstacle courses.  He didn’t think she did very well. We talked about helping others do well and I asked if he wanted Smoke to succeed. He said he did, and I asked what he might do to help? Jeff stopped to take a good look at Smoke’s legs.  He spaced the cones farther apart, slowed the pace when she got too close to a cone, and often looked back to observe her progress.

Studies show that brains work best when people are moving, and our sessions include a lot of activity. Children are attracted to animals and our activities don’t seem like therapy. Trying to understand life through the animal’s perspective increases empathy.  In Jeff’s case, parents and teachers have reported that he has been doing much better in class and is kinder to his siblings.

At Healing Strides Inc., we strive to look at the specific struggles for each child and design activities to help him/her find new solutions and strategies to handle those struggles. These challenges include study skills, peer relationships, emotion regulation, and paying attention.

*Names and details changed