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Paoli High School

501 Elm St.
Paoli, IN 47454
(812) 723-3905

PALS helping special needs children

Everyone has a calling, or something he or she are destined to do and become. While it can sometimes feel hopeless and out of reach, it is important to keep searching for that one special niche that you have in the world. For some, the challenge of finding your place in society can be a long process. I, on the other hand, was one of the lucky ones who knew what she wanted to do from a very young age.

My dream of becoming a special needs child therapist combines my two greatest loves; psychology, and special needs children. I first knew I wanted to do this in the fourth grade, when I participated in a school-sponsored program called TOTS (Teachers of Tomorrow), at my old elementary school in Florida.

My job as a “TOT” was to assist the teachers in whatever classroom I was assigned to by cleaning up, running errands and other small jobs. By chance, I was placed in a classroom full of special needs kindergarteners. Seeing the way these kids interacted with each other, and how innocent and loving they were, I couldn’t help falling in love with them instantly.

What people often times don’t realize is that with the disabilities that these people have, also comes a heart bigger than most of us can ever claim to have. They don’t judge, or see people in the way that many of us do. To them, everyone is equal.

Being so eager to do what I can for the special needs community, I am constantly looking for organizations and volunteer programs to get in touch with. One day, I came across a website for an organization that sounded perfect for me; PALS.

PALS, located in Bloomington, stands for People and Animal Learning Services. Their main objective is to teach special needs children and adults by the utilization of horse therapy. This means that, by pairing a special needs person with a horse, they can learn to communicate more effectively, and go on to carry out this knowledge into their everyday life. Horses like to feel safe, and if they are paired with someone who is noisy, loud, and aggressive, they will become frightened. However, if a child can learn to communicate with the horse in an effective way, they can control them.

Another reason why horses work so well with these people is that horses are much simpler than humans are, and therefore require much more simple direction. A simple, “Stop. Go. Turn Right,” is much easier for a special needs child to manage, rather than communication a full sentence to another person. For children with mental or emotional disorders, they often feel insecure. If they are able to control a horse, it can give them a sense of empowerment and confidence.

Horse therapy can also help to treat a person with ADD. They will learn to focus on grooming and leading the horse, even though they are usually not able to focus on anything for long periods of time.

No matter what the disability that the person has, horse therapy has helped to make special needs people’s lives much more manageable. While it may sound a little far-fetched and silly to the average person, it is a highly utilized therapeutic exercise.

There is a lot to be said for the people at PALS. Not only are they dedicating their lives to the good of others, but they are recruiting many other your people interested in special needs therapy, and giving them an inside view into the field at a very early age. I hope to be able to work with them and learn from them for many years to come. If you would like to get involved, or simply learn more about this organization, feel free to browse their website at

Blog/ info by Alyson Graham

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