Travel writer and activist Rupert Isaacson has written for an assortment of publications in diverse parts of the English-speaking world. Married to an academic psychologist and based in Texas, travel was his livelihood as well as his pleasure. But when his son was diagnosed with autism in 2004, the whole family’s world threatened to implode. Five-year-old Rowan had epic tantrums during which he would scream and wail inconsolably for hours, was physically incontinent and completely unable to connect with others. The child had 9 of 10 symptoms of autism, but because he could make good eye contact the clinicians thought he couldn’t be autistic.
Life for Isaacson and his wife became a never-ending series of crises. Hypersensitivity could make Rowan flip out if the texture of his clothing wasn’t quite right, or when he had to go from one place to another. And of course, he was still in diapers.
Nothing seemed to help until, in 2004, Rowan started making friends with his neighbour’s horse, Betsy. The first time they met, she dipped her head to him in the sign of obeisance which horses rarely give to other horses, let alone humans. Rowan liked Betsy just as much. On her back his tantrums calmed, he began to speak lucidly and even told the horse he loved it – the first time he had expressed love for anything or anyone. (more…)