A new therapy initiated by Thailand’s military in Lopbury, the central part of the Kingdom, aims to fight autism with the help of… buffalos. According to those supervising the treatment, children diagnosed with autism form bonds and develop emotional links when they’re riding the backs of buffalos. The therapy has attracted numerous fans and went from a few dozen patients to hundreds in just weeks.
The main part of the therapy involves children being led around on a field on the backs of the buffalos, under the supervision of Thai soldiers. It’s not the only part, though: the young patients also participate in art and music classes with the soldiers. Interaction is the key word when riding the buffalos too: the children play games and take part in mini races. The standard treatment can take as much as weeks, with more than 20 hours combined of buffalo riding.
“They become friends, and like the contact. Parents say they have never seen this before with their sons or daughters. We see children change from being emotionless and tense to having smiles and laughter on their face. It’s a magical moment to see the thrill, adrenaline and joy on their faces,” said General Kajonsak Jonpeng, the head of the programme.
The project was initiated after soldiers in Lopbury rescued a few buffalos from nearby farms and, hearing of dolphins and horses being used in autism therapy, believed that buffalo would have similar benefits. Results in the following weeks showed them they weren’t wrong in their assessment.
Specialists say that animals have a long history of improving the condition of children with autism.
“Research shows that pets can lower stress levels in some families, and we also know many autistic people and families who say they’ve really benefited from being around animals. (…) We welcome the development of new initiatives that have a positive impact on autistic people and their families,” said Carol Povey, Director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism.
This doesn’t mean that all children diagnosed with autism would react favorably to this type of treatment, added Ms. Povey. According to her, autism affects everyone differently and buffalo treatment may be overwhelming for some, particularly those who are acutely sensitive to noise or touch.
The therapy already gained a following in Thailand, with people coming from as far as Myanmar and Cambodia to give buffalo treatment a chance in curing their children.