Thursday, March 24, 2011

On Horses and Autism - Full Article

By: Christine Hamilton for The American Quarter Horse Journal

“Animals and autistic people don’t see their ideas of things; they see the actual things themselves,” writes Dr. Temple Grandin in her book, “Animals in Translation.” Temple is an associate professor in livestock behavior and handling at Colorado State University.

“The brain of the horse is very specific,” she says. “If a horse gets a fear memory, it’s stored as a picture, a sound or a feel. It could be smell, but usually not. A real common thing is feeling: like bucking when you change gaits. A saddle feels different at each gait and creates a different feeling picture in the brain.

“Use a computer metaphor,” she continues. “The way the brain works is that fear memories can never be erased. You can train the horse to close the file on the fear memory, but you cannot delete it off the horse’s hard drive.

“You have some of the same problems with autistic children, especially if they’re nonverbal,” Temple says. “Let’s say a fire alarm went off and hurt the child’s ears. Now you can’t get him into a room where he sees a fire alarm; he sees the little red box and starts screaming...

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