By Maria Lianos

Rowan Isaacson was diagnosed with autism in April 2004 at age two and a half.  The charming, animated child stopped talking.  He retreated into himself for hours at a time and screamed inconsolably for no apparent reason.  For the Isaacsons, as for so many other parents, autism seemed to have snatched their child away.

In The Horse Boy, filmmaker Michel Orion Scott chronicles Rupert Isaacson and Kristin Neff’s personal odyssey as they struggle to make sense of their child’s autism and find healing for him and themselves in the unlikeliest of places.

The Isaacsons sought out the best medical care but orthodox therapies had little effect on Rowan.  Isolated from other kids and with tantrums worsening, the family travelled from rural Texas to Mongolia in search of eastern healing practices.   The family journeys on horseback for a week to seek out shamanic help.

A complex condition that dramatically affects social interaction and communication skills, autism is the fastest growing developmental disability today.  

The Horse Boy is a touching film however it is not a primer on this heartbreaking condition.  In an hour-long documentary, it obviously cannot cover the complexity of autism.  However it is a deeply personal, thought-provoking story of one family’s journey that goes to the end of the earth to find a way into their son’s life.

The Horse Boy will air on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens on Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 10pm (check local listings).

For more information on the film, visit


Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of, a leading lifestyle blog for women.

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