Big Little Leaps

EASTON

STARTED IN 2013 AT AGE 2

Easton was diagnosed with a rare chromosome disorder called IDIC15 when he was about one year old.  His disorder causes speech delay, developmental delay, autism, and hypotonia.  We first started PT through our medical group and Easton HATED it.  We would push him in his stroller to the appointment and the minute we got to the doors of the building he would start screaming.  It was so pitiful. I started looking online and discovered Leaps & Bounds and found out they had something called Hippotherapy (which we had never even heard of).  Easton loved being outside and loved animals, so I knew we just had to try to this. 

      Easton was two years old by the time we started at Leaps. It was amazing because there was something so different about the atmosphere that Easton didn’t even cry.  It didn’t feel so clinical, like our other PT place.  It was tiny, but it was warm and inviting.  We were already sold just by that alone.  Easton then got to have his first Hippotherapy session and I think I pretty much cried.  He was excited and smiling and didn’t even care he was being walked away from me.  He loved every second of it and my heart knew we had found the perfect spot for him to grow.

We first came here for physical therapy because he had such floppy muscles.  He would fall ALL of the time, over absolutely nothing and it caused, at times, some serious injuries.  It was really hard for a long time to let him walk without holding his hand.  Easton is now such a strong boy.  He works hard every day, more than other kids his age.  He is now working in occupational therapy on some self-help goals and learning how to be more independent in that area.

Before we started with Leaps, we were sad.  We started to think that this was going to be our child’s future – struggle, sadness, and lots of tears.  It was really disheartening.  I think that Leaps made us feel that there was hope and that therapy didn’t have to be a bad thing.  It became a fun thing, something to look forward to.   It made us happy to see Easton happy. That changed us all.

LEON

Leon started coming to Leaps & Bounds when he was just 6 months old. He has worked with almost every therapist on staff and has loved every one of them. He would not be where he is without their love and support. In occupational therapy, Leon is working on pre-writing skills, improving motor planning and hand strength. In speech, he is working on identifying pictures and objects. In physical therapy Leon is improving posture, motor control, and running.

Watching him run down the little hills at the ranch and past the stables is such fun. Leon loves the outdoors and visiting all the animals on the ranch before session starts.

Leon has the absolute best laugh that is so contagious and warms the hearts and the hallways. I love being able to sit in the lobby and hear his giggles in the other room. I know he is in the best hands when he gets to Leaps and Bounds. This place and their staff is unmatched and we so lucky to be a part of the Leaps Family.

KEELIN

Keelin was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a congenital collagen defect, when she was ten years old, and has been riding at Leaps & Bounds for over two years. Keelin is always working on strengthening her core with her coach, Amanda. She rides English saddle to engage her core muscles constantly. She is part of the Adaptive Riding program and the Leaps Show Team!

Keelin says her favorite things about Leaps is riding her horse, Guinevere. We love seeing the staff and volunteers working so hard to meet the needs of all children. It is so wonderful!

Keelin has becomes so much stronger since she started riding and is so confident. If she can ride a thousand pound horse, she can do anything!

MARSHALL

When Marshall started Hippotherapy with Leaps & Bounds over 4 years ago, he had never been on horseback and was actually afraid of horses and other large animals. Marshall’s inner “core” was weak (as is frequently the case with children like Marshall who are on the ASD “spectrum”) and his overall lack of coordination was about 2 years behind his peers. Socially, Marshall had focus and attention deficit issues; he was often “spacey” and while he had no issue ever engaging, his attention span and ability to stay in the “conversation” was impaired. He would often have issues following multiple step issues.A lot has changed in those 4 years. Marshall has been on the Honor Roll at his Jr. High School for the past two semesters; this is with an unmodified curriculum plan, meaning he does all the same work his peers do- homework and all. Marshall has an advanced reading and conversational style- and while he may drift into preferred areas of conversation (don’t we all) he is loved by everyone he talks with, and is never shy about engaging friends and strangers alike in a buoyant conversation. Marshall has competed in several equestrian shows (unassisted) winning many blue ribbons for Western Pleasure events. In fact, Marshall has won “double blue ribbons” in events with multiple judges; he’s a crowd pleaser and all smiles while he rides.

Why do I believe Marshall’s successes tie directly to the work of Leaps & Bounds? It’s about what happens other than what you expect from Hippotherapy/Adaptive Riding (the next step after Hippotherapy which is assisted, where Adaptive Riding is unassisted.) Everyone hears about the typical physical therapy benefits; here’s what they don’t tell you- the bonus plan:

a) Equine Mastery on any level (even assisted) enhances self-esteem and pride;
b) Equine Mastery involves an increasing and evolving need for focus and direction of thought;
c) Unassisted Equine Mastery involves multiple-step directions, which builds organized thinking;
d) Unassisted Equine Mastery requires listening and focused communication, as well as patience;
e) All manner of Equine care (which is taught at L & B) teaches caregiving and compassion;
f) Finally, Equine Mastery involves the development of Executive Functioning; the coordination of mind and body.

In coordination with other complementary therapies, “warrior parents” and a support staff of volunteers like the great folks at Leaps, Hippotherapy/Adaptive Riding is a way to capture the imagination of a young (or old) person with special needs, and turn a “preferred activity” into a way to shape the mind and body. It’s a formula- but a formula for success!

And we have seen it with Marshall- the evidence speaks for itself. Our younger son Austin, who is also challenged with ASD, graduated out of Hippotherapy and moved on to Adaptive Riding not long ago. With Leaps, we are applying that “formula” to him and seeing a previously “non-verbal” child narrating his own home videos- about his horse!

As a parent of two ASD siblings, I can understand that fear of failing to do all you can for your child. You can run circles pursuing multiple types of therapies to address one or two aspects of your child’s needs. We learned- with the help of Leaps & Bounds- that it is possible to receive a treatment which can supplant several of those individual treatments into one “holistic” therapy. On behalf of my wife, Athena and my sons, I want to thank Leaps & Bounds for really making a difference in our sons’ lives. They can help you as well. Give it a shot; it’s just “horse sense”.

Richard and Athena Bond

ARIA

We were looking for a therapy clinic closer to home and came across Leaps & Bounds. We saw information about hippotherapy, looked into it and never looked back! A little over a year ago Aria could barely walk 10 – 15 steps, and now she is walking everywhere independently.

She is currently working on her balance, speech, using different sounds, and feeding. The main therapists she works with are Megan, Yara, Theresa, Kayla, and Amanda, but she LOVES everyone at Leaps! Her progress carries over into her everyday activities at home and at school and we are so proud.

Aria gets so excited to see all of the therapists and her friends, and we love how nice and welcoming everyone always is. Leaps is amazing and we are so happy to be here