On a beautiful day recently, Nichole Ostrowski-Grasset’s Foster Care licensing team spent the afternoon and evening surrounded by proof that healing comes in many different ways. Our team volunteered at LifeStriders in Waukesha, a nonprofit organization that provides life-enhancing physical and psychological experiences and services to individuals with special needs.
LifeStriders offers a holistic approach to meeting the challenges many families with special needs face. They offer four programs/services:
- Therapeutic riding sessions – The horseback riding program incorporates elements of cognitive behavior therapy, physical and occupational therapy, and other modalities to address the needs of each client.
- Counseling services – They provide bilingual family support and counseling services for children, individuals or families.
- LifeStriders Social Skills Program – These fun, interactive groups are designed for children ages 4-18 who have challenges with social communication that affect the quality of their interpersonal relationships.
- Youth Program – Aimed at young people from 12-21, this program provides opportunities for community service, character building, drop-out prevention and violence prevention for at-risk youths in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.
Team Ostrowski-Grasset volunteered in the therapeutic riding program, helping several children during one-hour riding lessons. Equine therapy is a type of animal-assisted therapy that recognizes the bond between animals and humans and the potential for emotional healing that can occur when a relationship is formed between the two species.
Horses are especially good for this type of work for many reasons. First, they need a lot of care. A client can put aside his or her own troubles for the immediate job of caring for a horse. Horses also are large and strong, which challenges a person to overcome any fear in order to work with them. Horses mirror moods, too; they respond negatively to negative emotions, which teaches clients that their behavior can affect others and makes it necessary to modify it to work successfully with the animal.
Witnessing the transformation from when children first walked into the stable to when they walked out after only an hour later was inspiring. You could see certain children arrive with the weight of the world on their shoulders – being a child with special needs can be extremely difficult – but the instant they were lifted onto a horse, they relaxed, reframed, shifted focus, settled in, and, best of all, felt free.
This experience was truly unforgettable. It reminded us that there are many different ways children can overcome, triumph and heal. Thinking “outside the box” is sometimes the only way we can figure out what will work for the children we are serving. This particular day we witnessed horses as partners in healing.
We hope to continue to branch out to other exciting organizations in the community and figure out how their missions can support our children and help foster their healing.
For more information about LifeStriders and the programs they offer, visit their website: www.lifestriders.org.
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