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Surprise in a Donkey’s Dance

The day was hot, the wind was dry, the clouds were hovering over the foothills and the two boys with me were very different in nature. One was three, the other five. One was Autistic and his brother was not. The donkey decided not to move any more. Period. All four feet were rooted to the ground. One little boy began to cry, tears staining his pudgy, dirt-smudged face and the other began wailing at the train in the distance, head back, voice like a lone wolf. Hmm. . . The donkey had no intention of changing her mind, the little boy continued to cry, but as the caboose slid under the bridge, at last the lone wolf’s howling subsided.  Such a predicament! The sky to the east was blue, the wind still dry and gusty but the clouds hovering over the foothills were moving toward us, stabs of lightning punctuating their imminent arrival.

Of the three, the donkey seemed the easiest to reason with. I gently looped the lead rope around her hind end and asked her to step around in a circle unlocking her front feet. I asked the sobbing boy to help me hum the “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” along with his tears and surprise, he did so. The older boy forgot about the train, joined in our little chorus and the donkey’s feet lulled the little boy as we circled our way in the direction of the barn and the safety of a roof over our heads.

Cooperation is key when working with challenging children and equine companions! Between the howling, the crying, and the balking, without cooperation movement was impossible. Reasoning alone doesn’t always lead to the end result. Surprise is a great tactic for enticing cooperation! Often, a challenging child can be surprised into doing exactly what you’d like to see! Just like the donkey was willing to “dance” but not lift a foot in the direction of home, it’s a simple matter of unexpected distraction

Stormy, the Miniature Donkey

Stormy, the Miniature Donkey

. Any time cooperation is lacking, take a moment to think “outside the box” and see if you can’t find a new way forward.

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About Mary Smid Newman, MA & Educational Services, Inc.

Educational Services, Inc., owned and operated by Mary Smid Newman, MA is dedicated to the enrichment of each individual. Using a variety of techniques and tools our goal is to foster the unique capabilities latent within each student. Unconventional in practice, conventional in objective, we strive to find the solutions necessary to promote learning in classroom settings and applying those lessons to real life situations. In order to achieve these goals, Mary has incorporated horses, nature, technology and traditional academic materials to foster learning.

Mary has a Master’s Degree in Special Education with an emphasis on Learning Disabilities and Severe Communication Challenges. This expertise encompasses the learning needs of students ranging from Dyslexic, Bipolar, Depressed,  ADD, ADHD, Sensory Integration, Executive Function, Nonverbal LD, Aspberger’s Syndrome, Autism and those At-Risk due to environmental circumstances. Mary worked for the Havern School for students with learning disabilities for eight years in both the junior high and first grade classrooms. She opened her private practice in 1984. Mary specializes in school advocacy, school placement, college placement, test-taking skills, and essay writing.

Mary spent many years in a traditional office setting in the Cherry Creek and the DTC area. Six years ago, she began dividing her time between the office setting and the broader natural environment of the Happy Dog Ranch, 501c3, located in Littleton, Colorado. Two years ago Mary chose the Happy Dog Ranch facility as the base for her practice. At Happy Dog Ranch, Mary is able to nurture her students through the beauty of the foothills, the wildlife, and the ranch animals living at Happy Dog Ranch. Chickens, horses, donkeys, dogs, goats, alpacas, a llama, a friendly steer, and a welcoming pig named Wilbur. Chatfield State Park borders the Happy Dog Ranch property and our curriculum includes walks, photography, and horsemanship exercises through our unique educational program.

Mary spends her time away from the ranch writing essays, articles, short stories and novels. Mary’s current novels in process include a reflective look at spirituality co-authored by her father, Patrick Smid, a mystery novel for Middle Grade readers with her sister, Rosemary Reinhart and two mystery novels. A strategy guide for parents of school-age children with educational challenges including Autism, Bi-Polar, Depression and Anxiety issues and a follow-up to that book concerning the options these children have as they enter adulthood, 18-25. Links to these works will be available through this website soon!

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