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Specialist Alternative Education

Specialist Alternative Education and Therapy

At Rainbow Horses we offer a child-centred therapeutic learning approach for children with autism, attachment disorders and developmental trauma. We focus on developing emotional regulation, self-awareness, resilience, and social and communication skills through adult-supported interaction with horses, other animals, and the natural environment on our seven acre rural site.

We support the children we work with to explore their interests and process their feelings through a wide range of activities. These offer opportunities for: self-regulating through sensory input; non-verbal processing of difficult emotions and experiences through play and art; and developing self-worth through achieving meaningful, self-selected and intrinsically motivated experiences of success.

Psychoeducation is given where appropriate to help the children and young people understand how their brain works, explain their difficulties, and explore strategies that may help. This, together with observations of animal behaviour and exploring behaviour as a way of communicating thoughts and feelings, helps them to think about more appropriate ways of behaving and communicating.

We employ active listening skills and maintain an attitude of unconditional positive regard towards the children, whilst maintaining boundaries around safety and respect for others. We also model this in our relationship with other people and with the animals. This helps them to feel that they are heard, and that their thoughts and feelings are respected, as well as seeing how to relate appropriately to others. The positive behaviours of the animals towards the children, such as Sally our dog greeting them effusively at the gate, horses choosing to walk towards them or to follow them in the fields, also helps them to create a more positive inner story about themselves.

 

 

As an arts-based child counsellor, a lot of the work I do is based on working with the unconscious brain, processing difficult feelings through practical activities. For some children talking about their experiences can be re-traumatising. Working with the animals can be a lot like working with puppets or using drama, while other activities like digging and building are similar to sand tray work or working with clay. We also have a wide range of art materials, and games that teach children about feelings, different ways of thinking and strategies to help with difficult thoughts and feelings. In this way children have the opportunity to explore their feelings, and to integrate them so that they become more manageable.

By working in this way, attuning and listening to the child, supporting them to manage their emotions and remain regulated, and providing a low-arousal environment, we help them to feel safe enough to attempt new skills and prepare them to become active learners.

 

At Rainbow Horses Learning Centre we usually work on a one to one basis with children and young people who find the school environment challenging and need individual support although we work towards engaging in activities as a small group.

We have also worked with various class groups to support peer relationships and with a girls' group to develop self-confidence. Many young people who find conventional schooling very challenging are able to thrive and learn in the outdoor learning environment that we offer.

Our curriculum is based around the horse; for example we explore history through how the horse has assisted humans through farming and wars, geography can be covered by learning about the different environments each of our native British horses have come from and we weigh and measure the horses regularly to plot their weights on graphs for some of our numeracy.

We also offer a wide range of non-animal related activities such as woodwork, understanding electricity, soldering, gardening and textiles projects. As we work on a one to one basis we are able to provide activities that suit the individual interests of each learner.

Learners are also able to work towards nationally recognised Ofqual qualifications through the Open College Network in areas such as animal care, personal development and employment skills as well as Functional Skills maths and English.