In order to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism, the United States recognizes April as a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community. This month, Trafalgar Square Books is pleased to release the new book RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM.
Over the last 15 years, Claudine Pelletier-Milet has worked at her horseback riding stable in France, outside the mainstream debate about autism and its causes, creating a magical world in which her horses and ponies help her autistic students (her “magnificent horsemen,” as she calls them) develop on their own time in a joyful and relaxed atmosphere.
When we read how Pelletier-Milet’s horses open doors to the autistic individual, inviting him into the vast world that surrounds him to discover new sensations and learn to control his emotions and fears, we thought sharing her stories—originally published in the French language and with a French audience in mind—worth translating. We feel Pelletier-Milet’s personal experiences with autistic children, and the transformation she has witnessed time and again in the saddle, remain a universal source of inspiration and hope, and one that should be shared, regardless of native land or language.
Join Trafalgar Square Books in getting involved with the autism community this April. RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE. Blog Bonus!! Enter the coupon code TSBBLOG15 at checkout and receive 15% off your entire order!
A note from David Walser, translator of RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM
I was asked to translate RIDING ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM by Trafalgar Square Books, and when I finished the first draft, I decided to go to France to meet Claudine [the author]. I found the experience of meeting her and seeing her at work electrifying. She is clearly an exceptional person with very special gifts. What, of course, one has to ask is: can a book describe what she does clearly enough to be of some help to the reader? I hope with all my heart that it will.
When I was watching a session, Claudine put [one of her autistic students, Steven] in front so that he had to lead the group and the transitions from trot to canter…he kept on turning his head around to look at all the others in the class following him, his face lit up by a large smile and keeping perfect balance.
Consequently, though, his pony would then drop the pace, leading to a little “pile-up” as the other children, barreling along on their ponies, caught up with him. A cheerful shout from Claudine soon had him breaking into a canter again and all was well—for a time.
When Claudine walked toward a small obstacle and shouted to Steven, “Like to do some jumping, Steven?” “No,” he said quite firmly, but Claudine put the jump across the track and raised its single pole on two plastic standards. Steven could easily have avoided it as he led his little train around the perimeter, but not a bit of it. He glided over in a perfect jump, his body flexing and leaning forward like a seasoned rider, while some of the others followed suit.
“Well done, Steven! You are a great rider!” shouted Claudine and his face became wreathed in smiles.
Once the walking, trotting, cantering, and jumping were over, we set off in a line of ponies and parents, with Claudine at the front, shouting encouragement to everyone. We headed for the wood of beech and oak, and the pine forest…Steven still led the line, from time to time looking directly behind him, but without in any way showing signs of being off balance. Later, on the walk, I asked a mother of a child without autism whether she thought it was a good thing for the children to be exposed to a child with ASD. “Certainly,” she replied, “It just widens their perception of what is ‘normal.’ They do not see the autistic child as being different from them. When you see them all together, you often cannot tell who is autistic and who not. Claudine treats them all exactly the same and so they treat each other similarly.”
“[My autistic students are] not children with an illness,” says Claudine. “They are people who often have special qualities, including being highly sensitive and intelligent, but just with their own way of looking at the world. Their development has been arrested at an early stage and they have turned in on themselves, so we have to help them to come out of hiding and to allow their special gifts to flourish.”
I had the feeling that Claudine would miss Steven terribly if he were to go…though I know she will welcome it when the time is right: he is so affectionate with her that on the first occasion that I met him, he rushed into her loving embrace, showering her with kisses and hugs while his mother and father looked on with appreciative smiles.