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|“How many more days until we go riding?” Since beginning to teach 7 years ago at Coronado Heights Elementary School in Putnam City, I never dreamed I would hear this question hundreds of times. It is the communication aspect of going to Coffee Creek that I appreciate most as a teacher. However, it is the enhanced self esteem that I feel benefits my students most in the long run.I was fortunate enough to inherit a program that already had ties established with Coffee Creek. I did not realize at the time what a blessing this would be. My students throughout the years have been diagnosed with a variety of cognitive impairments, Autism, Down syndrome, multiple disabilities, hearing and vision impairments. But they are far from disabled when they are at Coffee Creek. Their joy-filled smiles tell for all to see that they are definitely not handicapped. They are 8 feet tall and able to do something that not many of their peers in the regular education classrooms back at school know how to do…ride a horse!The weeks we have a trip planned for Coffee Creek are filled with the question “How many more days until we go horseback riding?” One of the most noticeable differences I see is the increase in communication and language skills. Students who have no oral communication in the classroom have often amazed us with the sounds and even whole words and phrases they are able to produce while riding. I am amazed at children who willingly and spontaneously communicate with their horses to “walk on” and “whoa” when it means making their very large four-legged friend do their bidding. Parents too have been astounded. Their children, who they tell me are very afraid of animals and will never ride, come back standing proud. We always try to make sure that we have the photo evidence to prove that they can ride!Joy’s patience and that of her volunteers have never failed to work their magic with my students. I have never had a student do anything but look forward with excitement and anticipation to our trips to Coffee Creek. It adds a wonderful dimension to our program and I am so grateful to be a part of this wonderful experience.Cathy Maxwell|
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