Parents often say they would do anything for their children. Yet very few would travel to Mongolia with an autistic child to try out indigenous shamen and see what effect those truly alternative methods might have.
Rupert Isaacson is a firecracker of a personality who took wife Dr Kristin Neff and young son Rowan on a trek. Rowan’s tantrums, inability to toilet train (he is five in this film) and symptoms might make some people balk at a trip to the supermarket. These parents decided to try everything.
Needless to add, their ideas on what to try stretch rather further than the average special education needs statement recommends.
Rupert and Kristin met in India and share a love of travel. When they had Rowan, they researched techniques and considered different approaches. Their enthusiasm and love for each other and for their son shines out through this film. They work together, giving a masterclass in how mature people air differences while showing respect for each other.
This screening of “The Horse Boy” saw the Stratford Picturehouse profits go to the Horse Boy Foundation www.horseboyfoundation.org
The foundation allows autistic children to try riding horses. For the families, this is a rare joy among the trials of daily life. Many of the audience members were parents who are looking for better ideas to help their autistic children.
Rupert has previously taken up the cause of the Bushmen of the Kalahari and is respected as a campaigner and as a journalist. Kristin has a PhD in psychology and specialises in self-acceptance. Their rural Texas home, surrounded by animals and countryside, looks like the perfect place for anyone to have a happy childhood. They really are profoundly good people.
They noticed that Rowan had a profound connection to animals and especially to horses. That is a big part of this story.
You really ought to see this movie, whether autism is of interest to you or not. You can buy it on Amazon. It goes beyond family love to a plea to accept all differences and difficulties in others and to learn to understand to accept others as they are.
Does the cure work? It has certainly has some dramatic effects. In this world of comformity and fitting in, the movie celebrates a very broad set of behaviours. You will learn and you will be moved. For once, the expert talking heads all offer useful insights.
The question and answer session afterwards confirmed that Rupert Isaacson and Gillian Naysmith, who runs Horse Boy UK (www.horseboycamps.co.uk) are genuinely inspiring people with an astonishing commitment to others. Really, it was all humbling and very beautiful.
Stratford Picturehouse has regular autism-friendly screenings of films. See their web site for details. There is a link on this page.