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It seems appropriate to share the story of Lachlan as Thanksgiving and Christmas are among his favorite things in life. A very social boy, Lachlan runs to each relative to give them a big hug and an excited greeting when he sees them during the holidays.

Like many children with autism, Lachlan struggles to process sensory input, and to regulate himself physically and emotionally. It’s as if everything Lachlan feels, hears, tastes, smells, and sees is magnified ten times. A loud noise can produce a flight or fight response. If his food is too hot, he may scream in pain. He’s petrified of the birthday song and can’t play sports because of his fear of the crowd cheering and clapping. These extreme sensitivities have resulted in Lachlan being unable to participate in activities considered normal for most children.

Over the years, Lachlan has received speech and occupational therapies, as well as various kinds of behavioral therapy. “Despite all these traditional interventions we didn’t see much in the way of progress until we started trying alternative therapies, in particular dietary changes, and homeopathy,” says Lachlan’s father. “We’ve also found that adaptive riding at Giant Steps has been more effective than traditional therapies.

When Lachlan began riding at Giant Steps, the staff noticed that when he became overly excited and dysregulated, it helped to feel pressure and movement on his body. They wisely matched Lachlan with Pepe, a Tennessee Walker, whose gait would provide increased physical input to help Lachlan stay calm. That decision led to one of Lachlan’s greatest achievements.

After just a few months, Lachlan was using his reins to communicate with Pepe, riding around cones and barrels, and stopping Pepe when he was level with a target. Then, one day, the volunteer disconnected her lead rope from Pepe, and Lachlan took the ultimate step. For the first time, Lachlan rode Pepe completely by himself.

“There was our Lachlan. All his life, he was usually unable to do what all the other kids his age could do, unable to cope with a simple birthday party, unable to have candy at Halloween because of dietary restrictions, unable to go swimming because chlorine does something awful to his body. But now, he was doing something the vast majority of 10-year-olds cannot do. He was riding this magnificent horse all by himself. His disability at that moment was gone, replaced instead with ability. That is what it feels like for my wife and me to see our son achieve something we never dreamed he could.”

“Giant Steps is a special organization. For Lachlan, it has given him an environment in which he feels safe, and an activity which he has been able to feel a sense of achievement, peace, and dignity.”

Our goal is to raise $25,000 by the end of this year to support riders like Lachlan. Won’t you give today? Lachlan’s family joins us in thanking you for your consideration! 

Won’t you give the gift of joy? Just click on the word joy.

Happy holidays,

Beth C. Porter

Executive Director