THE PEGASUS PROGRAM: ADHD, High Functioning Autistic Spectrum, Learning Differences

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” -Albert Einstein

Special individuals frequently require special approaches to learn new skills and become proficient, successful individuals. LEAP’s unique, experiential approach which uses horses as teachers provides a very special approach that is emotionally engaging, uses movement and physical activity as part of the learning process, and gives clear, understandable responses to the client’s behavior.

Children with ADHD, high functioning autism, and learning differences often have low self -esteem due to their struggle to conform to a world and academic environment that was created for neurotypical individuals. Carefully planned activities with the LEAP horses lead to an enhanced sense of efficacy and mastery.

The LEAP horses provide a non-judgmental relationship that is conducive to learning interpersonal skills. Individuals with high functioning autism, ADHD, and learning differences often have difficulty ‘reading’ the non-verbal behavior of others. Our horses allow for repeated practice opportunities, as they are by nature non-verbal communicators and don’t react negatively to repetition as is likely in human peer relationships. Horses are extremely social animals, their use as team members in session allows clients to practice correct social behavior such as risking eye contact or verbal communication and then use these new skills with the professionals and other clients. Our clients can make observations about the horses without making either party feel nervous or self- conscious. Clients can learn to identify their own feelings and the feelings of others.  And they can test theories of ‘what will happen next’ in an interpersonally, emotionally safe context.

The rich outdoor environment provides a great opportunity to deal with sensory sensitivities. The horses, the human therapists, the weather, the birds, the bugs, and our very interactive barn cats provide different sensory experiences that can lead from daunting to delight!

The opportunity to MOVE! How many times have our clients been told to sit still and pay attention? Recent research shows that when we change our physical state through movement, we change our emotional state and learning is enhanced. To quote the neuroscientists, “What fires together, wires together”.

 In fact, one recent study showed that when equine-assisted psychotherapy clients ‘connect’ with the horses emotionally, their blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels go down and their oxytocin levels (the feeling good/all is well in the world hormone) goes up. Participants can learn valuable self-regulation skills through their interactions with the horses, as they learn to calm their ‘inner horse’.

The Pegasus Program is created to increase self-esteem, self-confidence, promote responsibility and enhance social skills.