At 5 years of age Anna was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, having sensory integration problems, and learning difficulties. When she was 6 years old she began to talk. Like most people on the autistic spectrum Anna has problems recognising and understanding other people’s emotions and expressing her own feelings. Anna finds managing situations outside of her immediate daily routine difficult and coping with new or unfamiliar events challenging. She often finds the world a worrying, confusing and scary place.
If Anna’s senses are overloaded she may shut down or have a meltdown. Meltdowns are never minor experiences. In the past they were serious and showed themselves by a 3 hours of head banging against a wall, wrist scratching, punching her own face, or complete withdrawal. She is managing life better now she’s maturing.
Anna says “People like me don’t ‘look’ disabled like someone in a wheelchair does so they think I’m bad.” Anna’s father believes that” autism’s not the problem, ignorance is”.
Like most people with autism, Anna has experienced abuse because of her difference. One Care Worker yelled, insulted, mocked, intimidated, humiliated, belittled, teased, isolated, and excluded her. He made jokes about her autistic behaviour, was sarcastic, treated her like a baby, and slammed and banged his impatience at her.
In order for Anna to heal grow and have positive relationships with others she needs to have a positive relationship with herself. Horses have the ability to make Anna, and others like her, feel good about themselves. Anna’s parents realised this and bought her a multi-coloured Irish Cob called Murphy, who has been there for her through thick and thin for 12 years
Murphy’s own unique personality is laidback, tolerant, and he has patience by the bucket load. He puts Anna at ease because he’s unbiased and non-judgmental, responding only to her intent and behaviour. They’ve established a relationship because they are both social animals willing to interact and work to build a relationship – autistic people do want relationships but don’t know how to create and maintain them – with the exception of horses. From the very beginning everyone could see the relationship building and bringing out the best in each other.
During these difficult times Anna would visit Murphy’s stable and simply sit with him. Somehow Murphy would sense her mood and move slowly towards her and drop his nose. Anna liked his special horsey smell and could feel the warmth of his body and often would sit in the stable and talk to him quietly. It was as though Murphy really wanted to please her. He was forgiving and didn’t mind that Anna had few social skills. Murphy didn’t see a person with autism. He saw a person. Anna knew this and it made her feel good. It’s as though they have a special connection. Perhaps this is because Murphy and Anna think in pictures and use their senses rather than words to make sense of others. Both look at actions and behaviours rather than rely on verbal language.
Murphy has enabled Anna to become more confident, more trusting, and to feel, even if only fleetingly, love for herself and others. When a person with autism like Anna senses the unconditional acceptance of Murphy, a small part of her troubled soul is healed.
Her self-esteem and self-worth remain low as a result of the abuse she’s experienced in her life. Yet Anna has so much to offer. She has a wonderful sense of humour. She has a sense of right and wrong and justice. She is loyal if treated fairly. She likes being liked. And so she and her father talk about their poem – her ideas his words. It’s their rant against neurotypicals (the term used by the autistic community to describe ‘normal’ people). The poem reminds her that she has many positive qualities and is different not less:
Anna is autistic unlike neurotypicals
Anna rarely lies, and we love her honesty and that she can only be herself and loves telly
Unlike neurotypicals who lie 20 times a day with the skill and guile of Machiavelli.
Anna lives deeply enthralled in the Zen-like moment, space and place.
Unlike neurotypicals whose meandering minds are often elsewhere not here and now.
Anna can ‘smell’ when trespassers have entered her own inner sanctum bathroom,
Especially male neurotypicals of whom, she says, ‘They stink’.
Anna can hear whispers in other’s ears from 100 metres away,
Unlike neurotypicals, unless they work for the CIA.
Anna has a terrific gold plated memory on topics of her choosing believe it or not,
I can’t remember if neurotypicals have good memories or not.
Anna can remember what happened on the 21st of January 2014,
Unlike neurotypicals who can’t even remember the day they abused her.
Anna lives a different life not tied to social conventions or norms of behaviour,
Unlike neurotypicals who hang manacled to accepted unquestioned stereotypes.
Anna has few hidden agendas,
Unlike neurotypicals who spend their days scheming and plotting.
Anna’s differently-wired brain opens new doors for neurotypicals,
Not many neurotypicals open doors for Anna.
Anna is surprising, non-judgmental, loyal, caring, special, and wonderful,
Unlike neurotypicals who are rarely different and usually not more but less.