I seriously need some ideas on what to talk to the kids about...the whole "how was school/are you done with school" "how old are you" and "wow its kinda nice outside today" thing is getting dull. What else do you talk to kids about, in general? Specifically autistic kids? Thanks!
How about going in this direction - "Hi, guys! I don't know about you, but I'm loving this sunny day!" or "Hi everyone! Hope you're doing well on this awesome day!" "Reminds me of when I was your age and was so happy to go and ride a horse, just like what we're about to do!" Just threw that out there, but with the intent of making the lesson/conversation general, chipper, and not 'putting them on the spot' by asking questions (even "How was school?", etc) I would, in this case conjure up little nice memories of your own 'at their age' riding horses to fill in the quiet blanks.... eventually, they may open up more! Best of luck! :)
I used to ask them about whether they liked the horse or were enjoying themselves, etc. I also found that the kids with autism responded much better if you were animated/seemed interested. Not just mumbling small-talk at them. I actually enjoyed working with them the most in therapeutic riding, because you could get them to open up and converse easily if they were talking about a subject they liked! A lot of them also really got into the grooming aspect of it, because they tend to be very tactile- they loved feeling the horse's mane and coat, etc. We encouraged them while they were riding to pat the horse and talk to it, which helped them AND the horse to feel comfortable.
Autistic kids are so unique that you have to actually get to know the kid to figure out how to really communicate with them....
There is a girl at my work (she takes the trash out) that is autistic and she LOVES to talk about the weather so that's what we talk about. There is a gentleman that vacuums that knows every movie coming out, from the actors to the synopsis to the length of the film so we talk movies....
This is true, a lot of autistic kids seem to have a "focus". But if you can't find or relate to their focus it does help to get them to focus on the horse, and especially the horse/rider relationship. I found that a lot of them developed deep bonds with their horse, even though they couldn't bond well with most humans. Some of the non-vocal ones even finally spoke out loud to the horse, like something was suddenly unlocked inside them. I loved that.
If the autistic child is very verbal, then try to talk about what they want to talk about. But, my experience with autistic people is that they dislike someone talking AT them, especially if they would like silence to concentrate on the horse. So, is it necessary that you talk?
if so, for the autistic kids you can direct their attention to something rhythmic, such as the steps. if they are older, can you get them to count out every time the horse steps with his front right foot?, or to feel the barrel swing side to side.
or, for non autistic kids or those that are like to talk while riding, you could ask them to guess what the horse had to eat that day, or , "I wonder what horses dream about? ...." how old do you think Brownie is? is that old? Do you think Brownie would look good with a haircut?
I dunno, just silly, imaginative things. It really depends on how old these kids are.
My trainer who also works with little kids both healthy and ''special needs'' ones often asks them to imagine things while riding to help them understand better.
She involves a lot of valuting elements so often she tells the kids who are scared to do something that requires letting the grip go, that they are in circus, or tells about princesses in long dresses when a kid is uncomfortable with the idea of sitting sideways with both legs over one side. She taught me standing in stirrups by making me imagine that there are tree branches above my head and I have to bend to get under them and teaches the right hand position by making you imagine you have a tray with a teapot on your hands.
Also an exercise I still love in my 23 that teaches that you are in control of the rythm of horses steps. She made me hum a song and by using my body get horse to trot or walk exactly in the rythm, and by changing song to a faster one move the pace up or vice versa.
So many of you have been involved in therapeutic riding. It's very impressive. Just wanted to say kudos to everyone on the thread!
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