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apples for cheyenneApples for Cheyenne: A story about autism, friendship and horses” written by Elizabeth King Gerlach and illustrated by Kim Miller is a delightful children’s book that touched me on a personal and professional level.

I grew up in a family affected by autism, and during those growing up years, my favorite hobby was horseback riding. Even now, many years later, I can remember the horse, Bonnie Bell.  Bonnie Bell  was very special to me during that time in my life, when I too needed a special friend!

Early in my professional life, I had the opportunity to conduct equine assisted psychotherapy (that is, horse assisted therapy) at a residential treatment program for teens, and now in my role as a therapist at an outpatient clinic, I specialize in working with children and teens on the autism spectrum.

Apples for Cheyenne” is a charming children’s book that describes the experiences of Rachel, a girl with autism. In the story, Rachel goes for a riding lesson on her favorite horse, Cheyenne. She meets up with two friends at the stable who have their own isms.  Like Rachel, her friends find that riding is a time when they experience acceptance from their wonderful equine friends. The three children enjoy themselves immensely, riding at the stable and later on the beach. Rachel’s friends are Ben, who is wheelchair bound until he gets on his horse named Coco and Julie, who likes to “move around a lot”, likes to ride Pixie. The three children and their horses, are accompanied by their instructor, Lana who ensures their safety.

The author and illustrator are perfectly suited for the task of bringing this story to life. The author’s son has personal experience with the special connection between an autistic child and a horse friend. The illustrator, who is herself on the autism spectrum, illustrates through her art a loving understanding of the human-horse bond that occurs for Rachel, Ben and Julie.

A perfect story to explain autism to children.  Apples for Cheyenne touches on a number of differences for children on the spectrum, such as sensory sensitivities, language delays and difficulty with eye contact.

A wonderful tool to prepare a child with autism or other isms to go horseback riding or to participate in a therapeutic riding program.  In particular, since it shows a boy in a wheelchair and a girl who “moves around a lot” it can be used for children who are in wheelchairs or have a movement disorder, is a sensory seeker or ADHD.

A resource to boost the self esteem of a child with autism, given the sensitive and understanding depiction of autistic children.