30 March 2012

Review: The Horse Boy

From Netflix:

"When conventional therapies fail to help their autistic son, Rupert and Kristin Isaacson travel with Rowan to Mongolia in the hopes that a combination of traditional shamanic healing and horseback riding will benefit him. Director Michel O. Scott's documentary juxtaposes scenes of the family at home in Texas with their journey on horseback across the breathtaking Mongolian countryside in search of reindeer herders and a powerful shaman."

I thought this was a beautiful and extremely well-done documentary, as well as one that gives an honest look at what it's like to live with an autistic child.  Having worked for many years in the past with autistic children living in group homes, I know firsthand just how trying it can be to deal with the varied behaviors, and this film didn't gloss over them.  We see the parents trying to wash their kid with bottled water after he poos in his underwear.  We see the endless screaming tantrums.

But, more importantly, it was a story about how far parents will go to help their child, and that was beautiful.  I don't know that I ever would have been brave enough (or foolish enough, as some doubtless think) to take an autistic child into the heart of Mongolia on horseback for the slim chance that something might help, but they were, even as they dealt with their own doubts later on.  And while the film didn't go too much into the details of the shamanic practices in Mongolia, the family's matter-of-fact approach provides a very balanced look at it all, neither ridiculing something very different from what our society believes, nor blindly buying into everything they come across.

I won't give away the ending and whether or not Rowan was cured by the shamanic intervention, but I will say that a sense of peace and acceptance pervades the documentary, and I'd highly recommend it for anyone looking to learn more about autism and alternative therapies.

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