By 2-Star Parelli Professional Nancy Slater
When I was growing up, I had a hard time fitting in at school. Because I grew up without social skills, I dealt with bullying. As a result, my self-esteem was low. From that point on, I wanted to be in control of my life.
Over the years – with support from some wonderful people – I have learned to be more assertive. But the turning point occurred once I became a Parelli Professional; I found my passion, and soon this Right-Brain Introvert became a Right/Left-Brain Extrovert. When Pat and Linda introduced Horsenality and Humanality, I said, “That’s the missing link!” I always knew the program was more about life than just getting along with horses, and this groundbreaking system of profiling would reveal strategies needed for better relationship-building.
I began working at a special needs school as the PATH Instructor. Many of the children would scream and carry on uncontrollably. At the school entrance, parents, grandparents, and guardians who dropped their children off would struggle to deal with the challenging daily routine. The mental and emotional day-to-day reality that adults face when caring for special needs children is significant. It takes its toll on everyone.
Many of our students have behavioral problems due to low self-esteem. Growing up without physical challenges can be tough enough, so imagine what they have to overcome on a daily basis. Not only do these children require physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy for their disabilities, but also for how they feel about life and themselves.
I have worked at the school for five years, with some of the most caring individuals in the world. Their jobs are extremely stressful, but they stay for the children, and to make a difference. Such is the staff at Our Children’s Academy.
For one thing, we know these horses are truly magical. Positive things happen for the children when they are with horses. The non-verbal children speak; the ones who cannot sit in a chair can sit up on the horse. Interaction with horses happens when there usually is no interaction in the classroom. The smiles come to frowning faces. The heart-to-heart shines though.
Every day, the therapists and I share our thoughts and feelings, noticing we speak the same language: You get cooperation and partnership with an individual through love, language, and leadership! As we shared ideas, we came up with ways of incorporating Parelli into the classroom to help the children with self-esteem and behavioral issues.
First, we wanted to get the board of directors to allow us to get Parelli in the classroom. The board was made up of either non-horse folks or folks with traditional views of horses, so I proposed a special demo day where I would bring my horses and talk about Parelli.
My goal was to show how communication with trust and respect brings unimaginable gifts. During my demo, I encouraged the director to play with my horses at Liberty. He is a Left-Brain Extrovert, and he said that he was used to getting people to do what he wanted, yet it was hard for him to communicate with the horses and get them to respond to him as they responded to me. With my direction, he was able to do quite a bit – even getting both horses to lie down with voice commands! He was thrilled, and I could see the wheels turning!
An occupational therapist came up with the curriculum, based on On Line Level 1. The HorseManShip Theory Book became our teachers’ textbook. Each week, the eight middle schoolers who were picked for this program met in the classroom, studied the Parelli Program, and learned about the terminology, horse behavior, Horsenality and Humanality, the Seven Games, and more. Every Tuesday at 2:00, it was time for a lab with my two Parelli-trained horses. The children got to take turns playing with my horses and completing the tasks for Level 1.
It worked beautifully! Their self-esteem flourished! The behavioral incidents decreased to almost zero! I believe this will help teachers everywhere, both in mainstream education and special needs programs. I am looking forward to a bright future of empowering students and enriching their lives through love, language, and leadership.
Our Children’s Academy and I are working on making the 2015-16 school year bigger and better with Parelli in the Classroom. With this model, we hope to see all schools bringing hope to children who need the knowledge and skills to take charge of their lives and feel good about who they are.
The following quote is from the Director of OCA:
“In order for OCA teachers to compliment the work being done by our Parelli trainers, we are scheduling trainings for teachers. As teachers continue to work towards recertifying their professional certificates annually, we will offer “in house” trainings with documented follow up to satisfy a portion of their in-service points needed. This will bring relevance and ownership to the program from all areas as the teachers are the first line of communication with our students. If the students can see that the teachers are reinforcing the things they are learning outside with the horses, the students will be able to master the skills necessary to advance with the program. Our goal is to include not only the teachers/students at OCA, but also to include the other schools in our community. We know that the program is designed to help all students and the Lake Wales community would benefit greatly from the program. Lake Wales is a unique town, led by a strong charter school system, and our continued partnerships with those schools will allow us to reach more students and accomplish more of our goals.
OCA’s therapeutic educational model is in the process of developing an accountability plan that will allow us to track our data, from all areas, in order to replicate our program/school in other communities in need. Our partnership with Parelli will allow us to use the program (as we continue to build it) as another area to monitor for fidelity. We know that great programs use data to track the success and/or issues related to implementation and continue to adapt in order to create the desired outcomes. As we continue to seek ways to enable our students to be successful, our partnership with Parelli will offer us another component to our overall design which will be tracked and monitored for future program opportunities, for both the school and the Parelli foundation.”
Steve Whitaker, Executive Director
Our Children’s Academy
Lake Wales, Florida