The Program and Curriculum

Wilderwood’s flagship program is contained in our unique curriculum. The program takes 9 months to complete and is taught over three, 12-week semesters each year: Spring, Summer, and Fall.

Wilderwood’s program is designed by autistics for autistics.

Semester 1, Spring: Hautism
Drawn from the philosophy of Hautism, or the innate connection between horses and autistic people, in the firstg semester participants work on developing stronger self-perception by reframing autism positively and opening the possibility of change through greater self-discovery and awareness. Participants attend for three hours a week for classroom and fieldwork. In the classroom, activities include lecture, small group and one-on-one discussion, reading and writing assignments, and formal assessments. Fieldwork involves interacting with, caring for, and observing horses as well as completing routine farm activities to reinforce a sense of belonging. During this semester, participants identify a significant directional change in their lives they wish to pursue and participate in creating a launching plan to put the ideas into action.

Semester 2, Summer: Launching
Track A
In the second semester, participants put their launching plan into action. While the content and direction of each plan is customized to meet participants’ individual needs, the structure remains the same. Basic attendance is for two hours a week and involves both classroom and fieldwork, as for the first semester, as well as interventional osteopathic manipulative, craniosacral, and/or other therapies as indicated. Beyond the base attendance, participants are matched with mentors who provide instruction and guidance in meeting launching goals during regularly scheduled meetings and assigned work that can range from an additional one to six hours a week, depending on the launch plan.

Track B
Participants who are still developing their launch plans take Track B in a structured program of riding, training, and equine care and communication. Participants also learn about reflective communication involving thoughts, feelings, and emotions through interactions with the horses. Attendance involves two hours a week of classroom and fieldwork, as well as interventional osteopathic manipulative, craniosacral, and/or other therapies as indicated. A third hour each week is devoted to instruction in riding and equine care. During this time, Track B participants work on creating a launch plan to put into place in the final semester.

Semester 3, Fall: Preceptorship
The third semester builds on and solidifies goals completed in the previous two semesters. Working with their mentors, participants identify a capstone project or major goal and the steps reuired to complete it during the semester (Track A) or put their launch plan into action (Track B). Attendance is for one hour a week for fieldwork at the farm, as well as interventional osteopathic manipulative, craniosacral, and/or other therapies as indicated. Additional attendance requirements are determined by the parameters of the preceptorship and/or capstone project.