La Crosse, WI (WXOW) ----- We've all seen the stories of how having a pet can improve our quality of life, and it doesn't have to be just a dog or cat.
Animals and humans can form a special bond. A program in La Crosse is helping reach out to children with special needs.
Every six months Eric O'Brien, a 10 year old with a rare disease similar to Parkinson's goes to a Pediatric Neurometer Clinic at Mayo Health Systems to receive testing, treatment and suggestions tailor made just for him.
When Eric first came to Horse Sense, a non-profit that uses horses for physical and emotional therapy for kids, he didn't say much but he learned pretty quickly that if he didn't tell the horse to go this wouldn't be very fun.
Tito is a therapy horse that is helping Eric in more ways than one, but especially with communicating verbally. Eric has L-Amino Acid Decarboxylase deficiency or AADC, a neurotransmitter deficiency which is similar to Parkinson's.
It was discovered in 1998. Eric was diagnosed in 2002. His doctor has been a part of his life since his birth and she's the one that suggested Horse Sense and other non-traditional therapies in addition to Eric's medication.
Dr. Jennifer Brumm of Mayo Health Clinic Systems says, "A lot of these things are fun for kids because sometimes therapy isn't fun for kids and they feel like they're doing the same things that the other kids without special needs are doing and that's what we like."
Eric's mom, Marlis O'Brien says the purpose of sharing this story is to show people there are solutions as long as you don't give up. "I hope that anybody out there that has a child with delays or special needs or physical or mental issues I hope they realize that we have great programs here in La Crosse and great services in the community."
And horses, like Tito, who likes cats, and kids like Eric.
Maggie McDonald says the movement of the horse underneath your body makes you aware of your muscles and a lot more. "I think it's just the connection you have. I mean we're dealing with a 12 hundred pound animal which adds a lot of confidence. If he can steer around a 12 hundred pound animal he can do anything."
Which is certainly the case because Eric, the boy who could barely speak convinced his doctor to give Horse Sense a try.
"He tells me about it every time I see him so I may come check it out."
For more information at the Pediatric Neuromotor Clinic call 608-392-9770.
And if you'd like more information or to make a donation to Horse Sense, the non-profit that uses horses to treat children with disabilities go to www.hssr.org
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