poster photos by O. Rufus Lovett and Justin Hennard
A couple months ago I picked up the movie, Horse Boy while returning some of the kid's DVDs. I didn't have the time to watch it that week, so I catalogued it with the ever growing list of movies I intend to watch. This one in particular kept popping up, so I decided to make time.
Horse Boy is an insightful and moving documentary about a couple who's son is diagnosed with Autism and how they come to the decision to travel through Mongolia on horseback to visit nomadic Shaman in the hopes of finding help for their son. The movie touches on the connection between humans and animals, the increasing role fathers are taking in the development of their children, and the ties between cultures.
Autism is a core element to this story, but it acts as a symbol for so many other aspects of family life.
When people speak about Autism now, they speak about the spectrum. Because there are so many different ways that Autism manifests, it is extremely hard to make concrete rules for diagnosis. What each family needs will vary greatly, but I wonder if in some cases the struggle is being increased by our need to fit people so neatly into education systems and careers. One doctor in the movie points out that if you study the healers in other cultures, you will find that they all have something that we would label, "being on the spectrum" in this country. Are our environmental factors pushing over the edge a natural variation in human experience?
What do I know about this great mystery of the mind? Not much, but here's something I'm certain of - nature can heal. It brought tears to my eyes to see this father push to follow his instinct to keep his son close to the animals and the earth. And here's something else - some of the ways I see and hear things - ways of viewing the world that I find invaluable in my work, would land me somewhere on the autism spectrum. Seeing sound, tasting color, using language in "odd" ways, general sensitivity to my environment are all things that can be found on various Autism check lists.
What this film really drove home was that for many people the answer isn't going to come from an effort to fit the person into the lifestyle, but to find the lifestyle that fits the person. I hope parents can be open to that kind of flexibility whether the struggle stems from Autism or any number of other things. I'm asking myself right now to answer hard questions about where my family will flourish.