We create experiences where people heal and grow together.
Autism Angels is a leading charity in Yorkshire, paving the way for creating real and lasting change for those who need it most. Would you expect a horse to walk through a busy town centre and be able to behave, conform and follow the rules? No, yet somehow we expect children who have Autism and other diverse needs to be able to do just that. Working alongside the horses, we are creating real life situations to enable people to not only learn about themselves and their own responses to the world, but to learn about others too and create a community where people are accepted for who they are not how they behave.
Two members of the Autism Angels team (Sarah and Nicki) are walking 500 miles with two horses (Akua-Blue and Riley) and their dog Yume to demonstrate how we can create meaningful opportunities for every person regardless of their history, conditioning or past behaviours.
The walk is to not only raise awareness of the charity but it is also designed to give people an introduction into how beneficial embracing natures healing power can be. Everyone is invited to join in with the walk for as many miles as they would like and can come along to as many days as they want.
The walk is an amazing way of showing people just how rapidly barriers can be broken and how easily excuses can be dropped. Walking 500 miles is challenging in itself let alone figuring out how to get 2 horses around the route and be able to deal with any adversity at any moment.
Yet it is possible. And more than that, it is fun, exciting, liberating, energising and so much more.
"Since I went to Autism Angels it has turned my life around and has taught me so much about myself. I will be joining as a volunteer so I can work with other children so that I can give something back and empower them to change their lives too."- child quote
As well as raising massive awareness and creating great learning opportunities, this walk is also being completed in order to raise money for the charity so that we can better support those who need it most.
Autism Angels provides much needed support in todays climate of adversity for its families. Not only are families who have children with additional needs at a higher risk of mental health issues but a large number are affected by divorce, unable to work due to childs needs, facing isolation, in poverty, financially unstable and generally have a lack of opportunities available to them. Autism Angels offers a home from home where the whole family is supported, both as individuals and as a whole unit. It provides a unique style of therapy work that is offered in a relaxed, friendly and outdoors environment where special conversations can take place to heal hurt, diffuse fears and reduce worries whilst giving hope for a brighter future. Autism Angels provides lonely and isolated families with a community which continues to grow as so many people seek a place where they can have fun, make friends, feel supported and be accepted; something that unfortunately is not readily available to them.
"Autism Angels is incredible. I can honestly say it is one of the most life changing trips I've ever made. My daughter found true friendship, overcame her fear of horses and showed confidence I've never seen before." - Parent quote
We welcome children, families, couples and individuals to embark on a journey of discovery back to self-care and self-love. Old patterns and beliefs are replaced with new insights, creating a sense of safety, belonging and purpose once again, giving meaning back to everyone’s lives. Working at natures pace; slow to medium, allows everyone to tune into themselves and reconnect with who they are and what they really want for their lives. Fear is dissolved and their health, well-being and balance are restored.
Horses also support our work, bringing a live dimension to the experience. They will act out each person’s life right in front of them enabling them to see the effects of their doubts, concerns and limiting beliefs on their lives. It is just like looking in a mirror.
We believe that if pain and trauma is healed and each person takes responsibility for their own lives then the conflict within individuals, families and society, as a whole, will dissipate over time and peace and harmony can be restored. We aim to give people an experience that will stay with them and be remembered as a turning point in their lives forever. Working with nature, animals and our transformative methods, we aim for people to leave feeling restored, nurtured, brave enough to make the change in their lives and feel hopeful for their future.
"Autism Angels is amazing place to be, a safe and supporting environment that allows everyone to be their true authentic selves. It is a place where everyone builds each other up and focuses on the ‘can dos’. Magical!" - Parent Quote
Children and families can choose from activities that meet their family’s needs most effectively. Some of the key programmes and activities that families can access are:
- Free taster sessions
- Family fun days
- Family Mentoring Programmes, running weekly for 35 weeks of the year
- Mini-Mentoring, a 6-week block programmes, run every half term.
- Family Summer Camps
- Holiday Clubs, such as Animal Care Club, Back to School with Confidence Days
- Inclusive Saturday clubs
- Private family coaching sessions
- Parent Programme and Support Network
- Private Riding Therapy sessions
This is just a glimpse of the opportunities available for families and we often create bespoke programmes to meet the needs of the individuals who come to us. We also run social events throughout the year alongside our fundraising events so that everyone can feel involved and play a role in the charity.
Many questions we get asked are;
Does a child have to have Autism to attend your programmes?
No. We will work with any child, any individual and any family who is in need. We require no diagnosis whatsoever and have supported people with many other diagnosis's such as; depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, dyspraxia, hyper-mobility, sensory needs, downs syndrome and many more.
How do you train your horses for the therapy?
First and foremost we treat our horses like horses. We respect their natural needs and natural behaviour and work through simple communication techniques to enable them to understand the work they are doing. Whilst our horses don't receive specialist training, they are trained very differently to those you would see in a traditional horse environment (racing, eventing, competing etc). We teach our horses to move away from things that scare them so the risk of harm is minimal, we get them used to being touched all over, we do something called "bomb-proofing" which means that they are desensitised from loud noises, big objects, moving objects. We also treat the horses as individuals and teach them to work within their strength zone so they are never put into a situation that they aren't ready for.
Where did your horses come from?
We currently have 7 horses. 3 of them have come from amazing homes where they have had lovely lives and have come to us to either retire from their career or develop themselves further. The other 4 members of our herd have all been rescued and donated to us. Whilst they do not come from the nicest backgrounds, they offer so much experience and support to the children and adults who have been in similar traumatic experiences.
Your dog is gorgeous, tell me more about him.
Yume is a rescue dog who came to Sarah when he was about 3 years old. He was found abandoned and chained up in a backyard and it is unknown how long he had been there for. As we don't know Yumes history we can only guess at his breeding which we think is Alaskan Malamute with some Husky in him too. He has the most incredible temperament and is incredible with children, everyone who meets him falls instantly in love with him. Yumes name means Dream in Japanese and he is most definitely a dream to us.
How does a family access your programmes?
A family can access our programmes in many ways. They can come directly to us - we offer free taster sessions so that families can visit, see the environment and meet the team to get their questions answered. We also work with schools and especially work with schools to offer programmes for those who struggle to stay in formal education. Our programmes offer outside the classroom learning experiences which we find are really beneficial to support learning. Social workers and key workers can also refer families to us. We keep everything really open so any person can access us at any time through any channel.