If you have a family and your children fall into the typically developing range, you may have two reactions when hearing about a family who has a child with an impairment: 1) I’m glad it isn’t us (followed by a guilty feeling, but the relief persists) and 2) they must be special people to handle that.
Of course “not being us” is probably a temporary life situation. One birth, one accident, one disease, and many of us, in the two or three generations of our family we are likely to know in our lifetime, will have a close relative with an impairment.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, In 2013–14, the number of children and youth ages 3–21 receiving special education services was 6.5 million, or about 13 percent of all public school students. Among students receiving special education services, 35 percent had specific learning disabilities. (https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cgg.asp)
Charlie on the Jacob Beachy Sensory Trail
As for the families with children with special needs being “special” themselves – well, let’s just say that that line makes these families either howl with laughter at its ludicrousness, or beat their heads against a wall in frustration, or both. The parents of children with special needs that I know were madly in love, planned to have a perfect life, the modern-day equivalent of a vine-covered cottage, and perfect children who would be at advanced stages of development almost from the time the last bit of umbilical cord tissue fell off their navel. You know, just like everyone else.
Still, when I talk with some of Jacob’s Fund’s families, I’m exhausted just hearing about their lives and schedules. How do they do it?
Take Charlie’s family. His parents have six children, aged eighteen to five. His mom, Wanda, works from home as a medical transcriptionist, and his father works for a trucking company. Wanda home schools all the children. Charlie’s older brother, Jacob, volunteered at McKenna Farms, as does sister Ashleigh, who is out temporarily with a broken clavicle.
Charlie is nine, and since he was two years old his parents have been working, as do most parents of children with impairments, to find the right help and corrective therapies for him. It was apparent to them that Charlie had significant sensory challenges. He also suffers from severe anxiety, and two years ago Charlie was diagnosed with Asperger’s autism.
Therapeutic riding - changing Charlie's life
His sensory challenges often kept him from completing daily living activities, and at times also kept his family from completing their daily living activities.
Finding help for your child requires a big investment in time: researching agencies and services, keeping up with required paperwork, and maintaining records. Transporting a child to doctor and therapy appointments takes more time.
All that time and effort is worth it when you see your child making progress, experiencing the joy of independence and lessening anxiety.
Charlie’s ridership from Jacob’s Fund is doing just that. “Charlie’s riding at McKenna Farms has been a life changer for Charlie, and me, for our whole family,” Wanda says.
Now Charlie is able to complete his school lesson with less struggle and fewer meltdowns. He handles disappointments and frustration better. He recognizes how disruptive his behaviors are and has begun apologizing for them. He’s better able to express his feelings. He is visibly happier, cheerful, and his overall confidence and self-esteem have improved tremendously.
“You see Charlie as he is today, but he had meltdowns that lasted for hours. I was in tears every day. The benefits are truly amazing!!!”
Through the tears, the disruption, the struggle, Charlie is still Charlie. “He has an amazing heart,” his mom tells me, “and the way he sees life is wonderful. It’s wonderful for me to be able to see life his way. He’s very trusting; that can be a little scary.”
“My words cannot express our appreciation for Jacob’s Fund and what this opportunity means for Charlie and our whole family. He comes to McKenna Farms and rides, and when he goes home he’s an entirely different person.”
Thank you for visiting Jacob’s Fund’s blog. If you’d like to know more about hippotherapy and therapeutic riding, or if you’d like to know more about Jacob’s Fund, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone us at 513-423-0108, or write or mail a check to help kids with developmental impairments trough equine therapy to us at:
1630 Tipperary Drive
Middletown, Ohio 45042-3875