JUPITER FARMS, Fla - On a warm spring morning, Joshua Banks is brushing a horse at the Hopes, Dreams and Horses stable.
"Soft cirlces, there we go," says instructor Kristy Creswick.
Joshua is on the low-functioning end of the autism spectrum, and like some others with autism, he's been able to connect emotionally with a horse.
"It has been amazing," said his mother, Vicki. "He's just looking forward to these lessons. You can tell from his body language, you can tell how he calms down on an anxious day."
Joshua has been riding at the stable in Jupiter Farms for 14 years. His mother and the instructors say they've watched the 26-year-old improve his ability to concentrate and follow directions when working with horses.
In horse therapy programs, the riding is tied to developing other skills too, such as color recognition and understanding instructions. It can also help with their balancing skills, and hand-eye coordination.
"Hold on to your reigns," Creswick reminds him.
Even though Joshua can't speak, through this therapy he's learned how to communicate with the horse.
"Let's walk in a full circle," Creswick instructs him. Joshua then directs the horse to ride in a circle.
At Hopes, Dreams and Horses, half the students are on the autism spectrum. The instructors say these sessions give the students a chance to develop a working relationship with the horses, which can improve social skills.
"They will observe behaviors in horses and be able to translate that to reading human behavior and learn to appropriately react with others," says owner, Sue Copeland.
From the grooming to the riding, horse therapy is another method of reaching those with autism, and gives the students a chance to interact and form an attachment with something that won't judge them.
For more information about the riding program, contact Hopes, Dreams and Horses http://hopesdreamsandhorses.moonfruit.com/