Sometimes it's easy to think that banning a harmful product, or cracking down on its disposal, can simply erase any future problems.

But a new study from Drexel University indicates that that might not be the case. Older readers may remember the infamous pesticide DDT, which was banned in 1972, ten years after the publication of Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring, which detailed the many ways in which DDT was ravaging the environment. (The pesticide might be most infamous for very nearly pushing the bald eagle to extinction.)


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Current research suggests that incidence and heterogeneity of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms may arise through a variety of exogenous and/or endogenous factors. While subject to routine clinical practice and generally considered safe, there exists speculation, though no human data, that diagnostic ultrasound may also contribute to ASD severity, supported by experimental evidence that exposure to ultrasound early in gestation could perturb brain development and alter behavior. Here we explored a modified triple hit hypothesis [Williams & Casanova, 2010] to assay for a possible relationship between the severity of ASD symptoms and (1) ultrasound exposure (2) during the first trimester of pregnancy in fetuses with a (3) genetic predisposition to ASD. We did so using retrospective analysis of data from the SSC (Simon's Simplex Collection) autism genetic repository funded by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative. We found that male children with ASD, copy number variations (CNVs), and exposure to first trimester ultrasound had significantly decreased non-verbal IQ and increased repetitive behaviors relative to male children with ASD, with CNVs, and no ultrasound. These data suggest that heterogeneity in ASD symptoms may result, at least in part, from exposure to diagnostic ultrasound during early prenatal development of children with specific genetic vulnerabilities. These results also add weight to on-going concerns expressed by the FDA about non-medical use of diagnostic ultrasound during pregnancy. Autism Res 2016. © 2016 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


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Empowerment. It's th' word of th' week here. It moves things forward. We've realized that Fynn needs two things to be happy, to move forward in life, to make progress. One is that he needs to move move move- Before anything else he needs to move. It opens up th' receptors in his brain and allows him to take in new information, make new decisions, communicate in new ways. (Check out th' research section for more info) Almost every major breakthrough he's made in his learning th' past few years has come about after or as th' result of lots of movement. Bike riding, running, jumping, swinging, swimming. The other thing he needs is to solve problems and overcome challenges. He thrives on this. It empowers him to meet th' next challenge. He often gets bored and disruptive when he doesn't have a problem to work out.
This has been th' snowiest winter in a long time. Our neighborhood streets have been covered in snow for so long that we haven't been able to do much bike riding, which was Fynn's salvation all this year. So today was one of th' few days this winter we've been able to go for a bike ride, There was still ice all over th' roads, but enough clear spaces that we could ride around for a few miles. Any time we came to a patch of ice Fynn would stop, get off his bike and walk it over or around the ice. Well today as we were riding we came to a patch of ice and he slowed down and i said, as i do at every patch of ice, to no avail, just keep going, you'll make it, just keep pedaling. And he did it. He rode over a good sized snowy ice mound and kept on going. He was so proud of himself. He was glowing, he felt empowered. From then on he looked forward to the ice patches, and while he still walked over some of them, he took most of them on his bike. It felt so good to see him like that, and it made me realize that's what he needs. For his own self esteem he needs to face challenges, however trivial they may seem to me, and overcome them. Once again, i wonder who is th' teacher here.
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Well fall is here, and for us that means that we get to have our "classroom" to ourselves again. Our classroom is a five acre field with a bike trail going through it. It's where we make model solar systems, hunt for insects, go swimming in summer, and mostly, pretend it's the African savannah and play games where our wagons are gazelles and cheetahs are out to get them. Summer time is great, but there's lots of other people out there, with their dogs, and, well, it's just nice to be able to concentrate on our lesson without th' distraction of explaining what we're doing. Fynn must be constantly moving if he wants to pay attention to anything, and of course he looks like he's not paying attention to anything at all. I tell people we're in school, learning about this or that. They see us playing chase with a wagon and a cheetah suit on. You see our dilemma here. 


 But now th' kids are all back in school, and th' field is our own. We come here twice a day, once in th' morning and once again in the evening. This year me and Beth both felt like Fynn needs to practice his reading and writng. We've come up with a few good ideas to help him, but he gets bored of most of them pretty quickly, and needs something new to keep him interested. We talked with him about improving his reading, and together came up with a plan. We are going to teach Bezzas (bee-zus, his wagon/gazelle) how to read. 


So now, when we get to th' gazelle field, th' first thing we do is teach Bezzas a new word. Either me, Fynn, Rowan or Bezzas picks th' new word, and Fynn writes it with chalk on th' bike trail, then helps Bezzas read it. Bezzas reads th' word, usually wrong, and Fynn corrects him and tells him what it really says. It's a brilliant concept that i'm not sure that i would've come up with on my own. Once again, I wonder who is th' teacher here. In this picture Fynn is teaching Bezzas how to spell halloween. (Rowan wrote the O2, he is learning about oxygen.)



 The other surprising lesson we've started learning about is degrees and angles. Fynn's favorite thing to do these days is ride his bike up and down hills. Any hill. Every hill. He names each one and we talk about how steep it is. He draws pictures of them. He gets on google earth and finds them and measures them. So we pulled out his old protractor. We got this for him years ago because he's always loved numbers and shapes. He's used it for all kinds of things, but never what it was made for. 


Yet, all we had to do was give it to him again and tell him that he could measure the steepness of his hills with it, and he was hooked. Since then we've been riding around measuring the angle of every hill in town, as well as the distance from trough to crest, and what's th' safest speed you can possibly go down it on a bicycle. It's like hanging out on th' job with a surveyor.  


I always wonder what are we going to discover next, and there is always something new.

Happy Learning!


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Hello Horse Boy tribe! Square Peg has been chugging along through the summer, with some new staff, new horses, and new adventures. Because pictures speak louder than words, scroll through some community pictures of training, group sessions, and summertime sunshine :) Enjoy and let me know if you have any questions or comments!!


1. One of our favorite summer activties is the annual campouts and surf days for our families and autism families in the community. We have partnered with the local surf club for three different days throughout the summer, and we are able to serve almost 15 kids each session, siblings included. It is a great community event, and by bringing the ranch kids, surf club kids, and families together, we have seem incredible results. Magical ocean!


2. One of the next ideas we have really incoroporated this summer was group training sessions. We all know that most of horsemanship is not riding, yet all lessons are kids riding. With some more staff members, we were able to teach all students, including our on site staff, how to do in-hand work, lunge, long-line, and discuss more in depth training principles. We have found that by the students understanding how the horses work, and why we train the way we do, everyone has a deeper understanding of the horse, his assets and challenges, and how he operates. It is very good for all of us to remember that most of horses is not riding. By building up the skills of our students, the horses will be better training by our community, and there is much more self worth involved in riding and working with the horses. 






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Hi everyone! My name is Tessa Biggs. I am a 14 year old volunteer at Square Peg Foundation out here in California.  I originally wrote this memoir as a speech about what has made me who I am today. I am honored that I was asked to post it, and I hope everyone enjoys!


Square Peg Foundation    

by Tessa Biggs


Every Sunday I drive to a small, hunter-green barn in Half Moon Bay.  Eucalyptus trees line the winding dirt road, greenery flourishes everywhere, and crisp ocean air fills your lungs.  It’s a magical spot, but what makes Square Peg Foundation so special isn’t the location. Square Peg is a non-profit horsemanship center that works with disabled children who are mainly autistic.


Autistic people have an excess of a chemical called cortisol in their brains, which creates anxiety and stress. Rhythmic movement of the hips, such as riding a horse, produces oxytocin, which counteracts cortisol and creates feelings of happiness and peace. Aside from the neurochemical benefits, letting a child interact with such patient creatures helps them learn in a different way.  I’ve watched a four year old tell a seven foot tall horse to nod, give her a kiss, and then smile. For a child who can rarely make eye contact,  this illuminates the idea of communication itself.


Today,  I want to tell everyone about J, a little boy who changed my life. The day I met J was a chilly Sunday morning in February. Out of the fog he emerged,  a wild-haired, pink-cheeked, 6 year old with a smile that could kill and and a giggle that rang out.  Instantly, I fell in love. This past year, I have spent every Sunday with J, playing hide and seek, tag, and watching him grow. We’ve invented songs, built forts, caught lizards, wrestled, and rode.  No matter how terrible my week had been, he always brightened it. One week, he created handmade shirts for everyone. Another week, there was a jumping lesson that he got to teach, with a singing lesson afterwards.


But every child has inevitable ups and downs. J fell into a rough patch: terrible frustration, violent tantrums, and negotiations. To him, punching, kicking, and spitting were how he communicated his anger. Yet somehow, the worst part was - he was unable to explain to us his inconsolable frustration. Before we continue - I need to clarify: at Square Peg, acceptance is absolute. Elsewhere - acceptance is a privilege that can be bestowed or revoked depending on a child’s behavior. Acceptance, patience, and kindness are fundamental to any child, even more so for one who is not neurotypical.


After several explosive lessons, we knew that the game plan needed to be changed. After thorough discussion, we settled on a new idea.  J is a natural born leader, his creativity blossoms when he is given a task.  J would do an obstacle course, but he would have creative control. We set up barrels, ground poles, zig zags, and hula hoops. When J arrived, we greeted him with hugs and waves and told him our big news. “ Hey dude, guess what? You get to do your own obstacle course: and we will all do it with you. You can teach us!” J shrieked in excitement, grabbed the pony, and bolted to the arena.


The minute he saw it, his eyes became fiery with determination. He immediately began to rearrange the course. We quickly said to him, “Two minutes of course building, and then jump on and ride your pony.” Surprisingly enough, after we told him his time was up, J happily mounted the pony and rode the course. Over the next hour, J carefully told us each new combination. Sometimes it was “around the barrels and through the hula hoop, and other times I had to canter around like a horse while he chased me - giggling uncontrollably. While this seems like such a small event, he stayed focused, asked for permission to dismount, and thanked us at the end of the lesson; a profound breakthrough.


Author Paul Collins wrote, "the problem with pounding a Square Peg into a round hole isn't that the hammering is such hard work, it's that you are destroying the peg.” It isn’t about forcing those who are different into a predefined mold, it is about changing the mold of society to support and help the individual thrive. J still has incapacitating meltdowns, but he is learning to communicate his needs in a nonviolent way.  I meet a lot of square pegs at the barn, and each one is beautiful, creative, and inspiring in their own unique way. Square peg has taught me that sometimes its okay to fall on the floor laughing, to go with the flow, to check your ego at the door and openly make a fool of yourself. I have learned that depth and intellectual greatness lie in every individual.  

I would like to leave you with this poem by Rob Siltanen with participation of Lee Clow,

Here's to the Crazy Ones/The round pegs in the square holes./

The ones who see things differently.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,

disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you cannot do is ignore them.

Because they change things. They invent.  They imagine.  They heal.

They explore.  They create.  They inspire.

They push the human race forward. / Maybe they have to be crazy...

"Because the people who are crazy enough to think they

can change the world are the ones who do."

Thank you.

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Living with depression can be a daily struggle, as it can surface at the most inconvenient times. For this reason, I have often found it is a perfect excuse to avoid any situation which might trigger it. So when I was asked by my best friend to drive out to a farm forty minutes away to spend time with people I had never met, and to possibly spend the night, I was strongly tempted to decline the invitation. However, even though some of my depression is situational, much of it surfaces at seemingly random times. The world around me can be perfect and I still see nothing but darkness. On the contrary, in some of the hardest times my depression gives me a break and I am hopeful.

Isabella has been telling me about this place for years. This is her farm, her family, and she is proud to finally give me a look into this essential part of her existence. 
"This place is magical," she has told me. At the horse boy farm, children with autism and other cognitive disabilities come to explore their world in a safe environment, where they are free to learn, scream, and interact with animals and nature. 
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Horse Boy Learning revolves around the principle of follow the child. You have to be flexible in your agenda, allow the student the freedom to find their own learning opportunities, and keep your eyes open for ones you see that they might have missed. Fynn is a mover, most of his "ah ha" moments come while running or riding his bike, it used to be swinging and bouncing. We drop bits of information all over the place. If he takes an interest we pick it up together and move on to the do it phase. If not we leave it alone and keep going. Our homeschooling styles have evolved over the seven years we've been at it, and this is where we are at now. It works for us. As Fynn grows and changes i'm sure we and our homeschool methods will too, but the basic principles of "drop it do it confirm it" and Follow the child work in any situation. Here's a typical day. 
"Fynn, what do you want to do today?" 
This is how most of our days start. But he'd been planning this one for a while now. 
"I want to make a planet model all the way to Sedna."
So we said OK and geared up to go with him to Sedna, the furthest known dwarf planet, at the edge of the Kuiper belt. He'd only recently started riding a bike, and he's still using training wheels, but we've been riding farther and farther, and i had a hunch he could make this trip, though it would take us most of a day. He's seven and rarely runs out of energy. We packed some snacks and Rowan helped air up the tires and off we went.
Sedna is far away. Like, really far. If you made a scale model where one foot equals a million miles in space, Sedna would be about sixteen miles from the sun, which would be the size of a bowling ball. We didn't go that far, but we did go a long way, about ten miles in all- Fynn's longest bike ride yet.
We all had a great time riding and then stopping at every planet so Fynn could get off his bike and draw them on the ground with chalk.  
A Praying Mantis caught Beth, and didn't want to let her go. Which was really cool because we've been watching Kung Fu Panda a lot lately. Fynn started eating soup, his most detested food, because of Kung Fu Panda. Never underestimate the power of television. We Stopped at a park for snacks, and basically just rode and rode and rode. Fynn did really well at staying on the right side of the bike trail, which took some effort and focus for him. He can concentrate when he's moving, and we can have conversations. Most of our conversations are him asking me questions he already knows the answer to, or him telling me to watch what he's doing. But when we're riding, or running, or bouncing or swinging, we talk about all kinds of things. I'll ride to Sedna and back for that.
After riding for a while we found a Silver Buffalo Berry Bush. (Sheperdia Canadensis) We were all hot and tired and this was a welcome treat. A wild berry that can't be bought in stores, you only have two weeks a year to harvest and eat them, so we took the chance to stop and enjoy this delicacy. As we were picking the kids asked why they were called buffalo berries. They asked if buffalo eat them. Curiosity is the beginning of knowledge. I said we'll have to look that up when we get home. We filled up on berries and then continued on our way.
After crossing a few streets and riding through vast open spaces we made it to Sedna. We all felt a sense of accomplishment at having come this far. And since the river was right there we went for a swim to cool off and relax a bit. We played in the sand. Skipped rocks. Looked at fish and crawfish.
On the way home we saw a beautiful bull snake. We shooed it off the trail so it wouldn't get run over. Fynn told some people who'd stopped to watch everything he knew about snakes. We stopped for lunch at Wendy's, and rode home through down town. Down town is not exactly a kid friendly place to ride, and we're really proud of how well Fynn did getting through there. We all got sunburnt and exhausted. We drank a lot of tea. We did a lot of math. We talked about bugs and snakes and floods and buffalo. The kids ate buffalo berries for the rest of the day and then Fynn got on his computer and typed in "how fast can buffalo run".  Apparently they can run forty miles an hour. We watched a few videos of buffalo running and then the kids turned into buffalo and ran around the yard until it was dark. It was a good day.
We've always been interested in Native America. My dad, Fynn's grandpa, is Native American, though Fynn's never met him and I haven't seen him since I was two. Fynn and Rowan have not yet shown much interest though. But now, because of these berries, they've become fascinated with the buffalo, and that can only lead to Native America.
The next morning we watched videos of buffalo on youtube and talked about how the buffalo used to cover this area. About how a lady who lived here a hundred years ago said it took a herd eight hours to pass her house, and how some of the settlers killed almost all of them to starve out the indians. About how the indians that lived around here lived with and loved the buffalo, and how they took care of each other. We talked about all this while eating buffalo berries.

We make planet models everyday, sometimes big sometimes small, some going here some going there. Fynn knows planets so well now that they've simply become a vehicle for other knowledge. In this case we learned about buffalo and Native America- ie, American history. What's that old saying about doing the same thing and expecting different results? We must be crazy.
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To all Horse Boyers,

At 12 noon Wednesday May 13, 2015 Betsy, the horse that started all things Horse Boy passed away peacefully in her home pasture, age 30.

She had been in retirement for a year but in the last months began having difficulty digesting her food and this gradually worsened until she passed away of old age as all horses should.

For those who knew her you will be reassured to know she remained the herd boss until the final day, able to bully the younger horses and put them in their place as an alpha mare should even in her twilight years.

As she lay on her final morning, unable to rise but peaceful her boyfriend/companion horse Eckie stood with her, as did we until the end.

It was gracious of her to give us this chance to say goodbye over a couple of hours so that everyone in the family could come caress her, hold her, kiss her and be with her until the light faded. Would that we could all die this way, on our home turf, on our own terms, with dignity surrounded by those we love.

For those of you who know the story you will understand what Betsy meant not just to us but to people all over the world – and will continue to mean.

In 2012 she was inducted into the USEF Horse Star Hall of Fame as a recognition of what she meant as a beacon of healing in the lives of all families facing the challenge of special needs. For those less familiar with the story suffice to say here that it was the relationship that Betsy and my son Rowan forged by themselves which led first to Rowan’s being able to speak while on her back, after his speech therapists had given up on him and it was Betsy who showed us the way of working with autistic children and horses that became systemized as Horse Boy Method which is now practiced in 11 countries, and which also sporned the non-horse kinetic learning programs (Horse Boy Learning and Movement Method) which have similarly taken off internationally and help an uncounted number of children around the world on a daily basis. The full story of course is told in The Horse Boy and The Long Ride Home which is about to be published in the USA and is already out in the UK and Europe.

It was all thanks to her!

Above all Betsy showed us that the important thing is to follow what works, to take the adventure that is in front of you, to put aside theories, philosophies, and prejudices, and go forward into the adventure with an open heart (even if like Betsy you reserve the right to be a bit grumpy about it sometimes).

Betsy was buried this morning on the exact spot where she and Rowan first met back in April 2004.

For those were lucky enough to meet and interact with this extraordinary living being, we have a request: we would like to create a memorial book in Betsy’s honor. If you have pictures of her, of your children working with her or even if you want to just send us an email with your personal memory of her, please post it in the comments below as this website is permanent and will stand as an memorial, as will the books.

Betsy, you showed us how to live free and ride free. We are forever in you debt.

Betsy Ru Rowan

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Silly Math


One of Fynn's favorite places to learn and discuss new concepts is on th' swing. It's also a good place to test his understanding of things we've covered in th' past. He's moving, he's relaxed, calm and focused- and having fun. One of his favorite things to do on th' swing is a game he calls “Silly Spelling” where we take turns spelling numbers from one to one hundred. We always start off spelling them correctly, and get sillier and sillier as we go. For example, i'll say 0-N-E, then Fynn'll say T-W-O, then i'll say T-H-I-R-S-T-Y, then he'll start laughing and say “What, that doesn't spell three, that spells…..” He'll try to sound it out, and i'll help him if he needs it. “Oh no wait, that's not right” I say, “T-H-R-E-E”. And back and forth. His spelling can get infinitely more silly than mine. He'll say things like “T-W-E-N-T-Y-N-I-N-I-N-I-N-I-I-I-I-E-E-E” Which makes him laugh uncontrollably. We learned long ago that th' best way to test him is to give him th' wrong answer. If you ask him a question he'll usually just say
“I don't know”- but if you give him th' wrong answer he'll correct you if he knows it. And if you can get him to laugh, well, it's just better for everyone. So, not only do I tell him something wrong, but I tell him something that's wrong and completely ridiculous. He'll start laughing and say, “Oh, that's not right, it's….. That's silly Papa.” And it's great fun, no pressure testing.


So one morning Fynn was quietly swinging, I was sitting by him drinking my coffee, pushing Rowan, when I thought to introduce some basic algebra. “5 + K=10, What's K?” - He got a little smile on his face and said “What?” - I repeated th' question and he got it, “K is 5, that's kind of silly Papa.” - So we did a bunch more that way, real simple ones, just to get him used to th' concept. The problems got more advanced, as well as sillier, as we went on. “18 + T = 6, What's T?” He thought it was kind of silly, but it wasn't making him laugh, which is th' key to success with him. So after a while I say “5 + W = Whale, what's W?” Ah, laughter, now we're onto something, “Oh no wait, that's not right, 5 + W = 34, What's W?” He got a real kick out of this, and said we invented Silly Math. So now when he get's on th' swing, if i'm nearby he wants to do Silly Math. And of course his questions are sillier than mine and often make absolutely no sense whatsoever- but we still have a lot of fun together, and he answers my questions, and tells me when I get the answers wrong, showing that he understands th' concept.


4 + K = Kangaroo, what's Kangaroo?


6 + T = -12, what's T?


Next on the agenda is the mathematical order of operations- 5 + 6 x 10 = 65. This one has been tricky for him as he wants to go in order, but as we swing and work through th' problems together he's getting it… just need to find a way to make it silly.


So, if you get stuck in th' math arena with your kids, try silly math, and tailor it to their interests, it's a lot of fun.



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The Long Ride Home

The long awaited sequel of the Horse Boy.


longridehome 4


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