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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What About Non-Verbal Communication? What Horses Can Teach Us.

Guest blogger Diane Hunter is a mind-body coach and a TapToTalk mom. Her next Listen Beyond Words workshop with horses is June 24-26 in the mountains of Los Gatos, California. For more info: www.listenbeyondwords.com.

I'm honored to post on TapToTalk's blog to share the lessons I've learned from horses and my eight-year-old Ian. He's non-verbal and was diagnosed with autism at age three. Last year I attended a workshop with horses that taught me the power of non-verbal communication, which transformed my life and my relationship with my son. I share my story to provide hope and possibility for you and your non-verbal child to connect on a deeper level beyond words.

The way TapToTalk provides a voice for a non-verbal child and his or her family is an amazing gift. For many, it opens an entirely new world of verbal communication. I highly recommend TapToTalk for any child without verbal language skills. But there's more to communication than "words." Understanding the way we communicate on a non-verbal level compliments and enhances all forms of verbal communication, spoken or assisted.

Research shows that we communicate less than 10% through verbal language. This means over 90% of our communication occurs non-verbally. We are constantly sending, receiving and reacting to non-verbal messages and children, like horses, are masters at reading these messages.

Before working with horses I struggled to communicate and connect with my son. I didn't have an understanding or awareness of how my child and I were actually communicating on a non-verbal level even though it was happening all the time. I felt overwhelmed and frustrated and I needed help. I found the answers in the round pen with a horse and as a result, my entire way of parenting shifted.

Typical statements I made before working with the horses:
  • I don't understand my child's behavior.
  • My child doesn't listen to me.
  • My child's whining and tantrums make me crazy.
  • I lose my patience far too often.
  • I get overwhelmed
  • I don't have enough energy to meet everyone's needs.
Sound familiar? After spending time with the horses, I decided to embark on my own journey to find my own place of calm. I learned how to shift my energy to create an environment of peace, trust and playfulness replacing stress, fear and control.

With my son, I first needed to develop trust and a sense of safety in order to create a good connection. This principle translates directly to all parenting. Building trust and a sense of safety comes first.

Why are the horses such great teachers?

In the round pen, the horses reflect back what you communicate on a non-verbal level. They illuminate any areas where you are struggling. What shows up in the round pen is what is showing up for you as a parent.

With the guidance of horse whisperer and life coach, Koelle Simpson, the horses provided immediate feedback when I was on track and communicating with leadership rather than control. They showed me exactly how to find that zone of balance of leadership, compassion and clarity and demystify the patterns of non-verbal communication that were standing between Ian and myself.

Horses have the ability to sense whatever you're feeling in any given moment on an energetic level.

How does that work? When you experience an emotion, there is a physical sensation associated with that emotion. Can you remember a time when you were really happy? How did your body feel? Did you have lots of energy? How about a time when you were sad? What do you recall? Do you notice a difference between the "feeling" of happy and sad? If yes, I propose you consider that you’re noticing the difference between the energetic resonances each emotion represents in your body. When you're near other people, they can feel that resonance too. These are the non-verbal exchanges going on all the time.

Imagine you drop a pebble into a pond. When the ripples reach another object like a rock, the ripples return to the direction they originated. The rock merely reflects back the ripples. The same thing happens in the round pen with a horse. The horse provides a mirror for what you're feeling. As your ripple of energy reaches them, they reflect it back to you. So does your child. Your child can "feel" when you’re stressed, scared, happy, sad, excited, etc.

Non-verbal children on the autism spectrum are especially sensitive to shifts in energy. When you start to open up your awareness and tune into this different level of non-verbal communication, you start to really understand what's going on for your child and listen beyond words. Even though your circumstances may remain the same, your entire perspective shifts creating a whole new understanding for you and your family. I wish you all the best in your journey ahead.

If you have a TapToTalk idea or story you'd like us to share with other TapToTalk users, please email us at blog@taptotalk.com.

The TapToTalk Team
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