Spencer, age 9, has Autism and has been coming to Circle of Hope for three years. Tobin and Susan decided to try the organization after hearing recommendations from parents in the Pathfinders for Autism program. What keeps them coming back time and time again is the amazing improvement they have seen in Spencer and the strength of the organization. "Spencer and we get so much joy out of the whole experience that we can't and haven't found anywhere else."

Upon my introduction to Spencer, you could tell that he was anxious and excited. However, once Spencer climbed on to Papa, Spencer's designated horse, the calming affect was almost immediate. Tobin and Susan acknowledge this harmonious interaction and attribute it to Circle of Hope's ability to connect both the physical and emotional needs of the participants to the personalities and temperament of their horse.

I asked Tobin and Susan why they would consider Spencer's journey a success story. The reasons seemed endless. His coordination and motor skills have greatly improved. He is more compliant and calm after a Circle of Hope session. We use "riding Papa" as a motivator, and he is able to make the connection between behavior and a reward. The posture it takes to ride the horse teaches him how to self correct, which is key to someone with low muscle tone. The other major indicator that Circle of Hope has been successful for Spencer (and his parents) is that riding Papa has taught him how to be more independent, manage responsibility, and trust the environment around him, which are huge steps for an autistic child.

Tobin and Susan did highlight that Spencer's success story is much as about their son as it is about the success of the Circle of Hope program. "The staff and volunteers are really what make this organization so great and successful. They handle each situation with professionalism, stride, care, and compassion." Spencer is just one of the many participants who benefit from this amazing organization.