Accepted paper:

Stillness in motion: The in/determinate relations of movement and repose in horseback therapy for people on the autism spectrum.

Author:

Roslyn Malcolm (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Interoceptive difficulties have been recently explored as a feature of autism spectrum conditions (Garfinkel et al. 2016). This paper explores the role of interoception in the in/determinate (Roberts 2017) relations between movement and repose in the context of horseback therapy in the UK and USA.

Paper long abstract:

Difficulties with interoception have recently been explored as a symptom of autism spectrum conditions (Garfinkel et al. 2016). Specifically, these difficulties manifest in hypersensitivities to physiological states and relatedly the ability to reflect on one's own emotional experience to understand others. This paper explores the role of interoception in the in/determinate (Roberts 2017) relations between, and inversions of, movement and repose in the context of horseback therapy in the UK and USA.

People on the spectrum are often characterized by inflexibility of thought, and a tendency for becoming 'stuck'. Intense interests are referred to as 'fixed', and idiosyncratic behaviours such as 'stimming' are pathologized as 'stereotypy', implying that they have no aim or goal (APA 2013). However, my interlocutors define these habits actively, as a route to soothing sensory hypersensitivities. Struggling to maintain control of shifting sensorial worlds and living in flux between partial states of sensorial equilibrium, mean that rigidity, stasis, and routine become a route to much needed stability.

Traditional interventions (such as Applied Behavioural Analysis) aim to halt these habitual stimming behaviours. Horseback therapy instead works with, not against, individual's interoceptive idiosyncrasies. By carefully choreographing sensory inputs via horseback movement, the practice aims to soothe 'sensory overload', inculcating a state of 'sensory integration', equilibrium and stillness in the person. Facilitated by horse powered movement, these simultaneous spaces of stillness are understood by practitioners to enable behavioural flexibility and change.

panel P069
Movement, stasis and interoception: unsettling the body [Medical Anthropology Network]