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Lifetime Lessons at Zuma’s
When Jodi asked for a paragraph on what it means to be a volunteer at Zuma’s, it is doubtful that she expected a dissertation. How can one sum up in a few sentences what volunteering encompasses at Zuma’s Rescue Ranch?
My first experience at Zuma’s was begun with the hope of rekindling a lifelong love of horses that began many years ago with a very green pony and a relationship never forgotten. In hopes of having some special times with my adult daughter we took a set of lessons together when we became aware of Zuma’s. This led to the opportunity to volunteer and thus, the observation of and learning of life lessons.
My volunteering experience began with leading a horse on a few trail rides and becoming acquainted with the ranch and the people there. Then I was privileged to assist with Pony Club and while doing this realized there is so much more to Zuma’s than a lovely setting and great people and horses.
My wish to be a part of the ranch experience was to be with horses again, but that proved to be such a small fly on the horses’s croup. See I even learned something at Pony Club. Then I was introduced to the Experiental Learning Program at Zuma’s. A few afternoons of tutoring brought into use my career experience as teacher and there you have it: a way to combine giving and receiving.
As is usually the case at any volunteer job, it is difficult to give more than one receives. At Zuma’s as hard as I try, I receive more than I can give. My goal is to tip the balance on the giving side. It is hard to top having a child say to you, “I feel so sophisticated,” after playing a simple game. What touches a heart more than during experiential learning to see a teenage boy grow from fearful and timid around a 1300 pound horse to round penning her with no lead in a week’s time and even riding her with confidence as the culmination of his camp experience. Let’s see, how about being with people who have serving and helping as their motives and genuinely caring for the animals and people that come through Zuma’s gates?
Everyday I meet another horse or person that teaches me something as I share my story or they share their life with me. Each of us has a favorite horse or two that touch us for some reason or other. Thinking about the horses, who I love, helps me see the kinds of people I love. I see Jodi and Paul sharing their gorgeous facility with so many of us, giving us time to experience the beauty and serenity of the setting and the lives at Zuma’s.
A Basic Science
Behavior analysis differs from most psychological attempts to understand behavior. Psychological theories study entities such as “the mind” or “the personality” or “cognitive structure”” or “self-concept” or “drives.” These are usually viewed as the basic subject matter of psychology; they are causal and behavior is merely a derivative of them. Unfortunately, these assumed entities do not exist in the natural world of the other sciences, they do not reside in the same physical natural science realm as electrons, atoms, magnetism, cells, and so forth. Where they actually exist is unclear, perhaps in some “mental” or “hypothetical” universe.As a result, it is difficult to define and measure them unambiguously and even harder to understand how they relate to other natural phenomena.
Behavior analysis does not posit such “mental” causes for behavior. Behavior itself is seen as the subject matter of interest. Variations in behavior, changes in the frequency or form of what we do or what we say, are understood in terms of relations with real-world events. Understanding, describing, and predicting behavior does not require an appeal to nonobjective or unscientific concepts. It is analyzed in terms of interactions between behavior itself and the environment.
Selectivism, not “purposism,” is the guiding concept. Behavior does not occur “in order to” produce some result, even though we inaccurately say “the child cries to get attention.” Purposive statements suggest that present behavior (e.g., crying) is caused by something which has not yet occurred (attention). It is more accurate to say that the environment provides consequences for behavior, which make that behavior more likely to occur in the future under similar circumstances. At a later time we then observe the strengthened behavior to occur. Thus, the child cries (now) because in the past crying has resulted in attention, and the present is influenced by the past, not the future. Operants and reflexes are the two major classes of behavior. Operants (traditionally called “voluntary behaviors”) include most visible everyday things we do or say. Events which follow operants (consequences) significantly influence the likelihood of the behavior occurring again under similar circumstances (e.g., ask politely, get seconds on pie). Reflexes, called respondents, are mostly automatic responses to some stimulus which precedes them (e.g., loud noise, heart rate changes), and are frequently “physiological.” They are not influenced very much by consequences.
Some people incorrectly believe that behavior analysis considers all behavior to be respondent in nature, and therefore “automatic” and not influenced by what happens. Even some texts suggest this. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding. In fact, however, behavior analysis suggests that most behavior of interest in everyday life, in family or personal relationships, in school or on the job, is operant in nature, not respondent. It therefore changes as the environment changes and provides different consequences.
Contingencies and functional relationships describe the connections between behavior and its causes in the environment. “When he told jokes people laughed” asserts that the laughter of others was contingent on his telling jokes. If we found that this consequence strengthened the probability that he would tell jokes, we would have discovered a functional relationship; his telling jokes was a function of people laughing. From this observed functional relationship and many, many others we might develop the abstract concept of reinforcement, an abstract functional relationship.
Explanations which are not functional relationships do not really “explain.” Some people might explain an individual’s helpless behavior as due to a “dependent personality.” This might refer to chronic, frequent dependent behavior, including test responses such as “I let other people make decisions.” Although this label or description is often useful to know, it “explains” little. We cannot say that a person acts helpless or dependent because he or she has a dependent personality (has acted dependently a lot in the past) and claim we have illuminated the causes of the behavior.
Genetics, brain chemistry, physiology, and related factors play a role in understanding behavior. Behavior analysis assumes that certain functional relationships between behavior and the environment are true for individuals or species because of genetic endowment. We inherit a structure such that things “work” in a certain way, for both digestion and behavior. Functional relationships and general laws of behavior exist because of this genetic structure. Behavioral laws do not deny genetics, they exist because of genetics. Those individuals and species who inherited structures which allowed them to respond in certain ways to their environment survived, those who inherited structures which lead to different learning and behavior did not. “Nature” selected for survival those who inherited certain behavioral laws (structures), much as the environment selects specific behaviors of the individual to strengthen. The “nature-nurture” or “genetic-environment” controversy is meaningless. Because of our “nature” the environment nurtures (selects) our behavior in a certain way, and our “nature” reflects what we have inherited.
Behavior analysis sees things like physiology and brain chemistry as playing essential roles in understanding behavior. Contingencies which occurred in the past influence behavior today. Behavior analysis does not assume that some sort of time machine exists, that what happened eight years ago travels through time to influence how you will respond to a situation today. Behavior analysis speculates that these past events changed some structure, biological, neurological, chemical, or electrical, and these changes persist today and influence behavior today. However, we currently know little about what precisely goes on at these levels that mediate behavior. Fortunately, we can develop functional relationships that relate behavior to the environment independently of these events, and have a science of behavior, much as chemistry existed independently of quantum theory for a long time. Today, scientists know a lot about interpreting chemistry in terms of quantum theory; we are not at that stage in behavioral science, although there is a start. But today we do not know enough to explain behavior by reference to chemical or electrical events.
Determinism, robots and control are issues many raise about behavior analysis. Many seem to feel that determinism makes everything seem mechanical and pre-ordained, that it makes people appear like robots. Yet in spite of the fact that we know all the basics in classical physics, engineers cannot predict which plane will fail. Even with complete determinism in theory, complexity prevents full prediction or control in practice. Chaos theory posits a determined but unpredictable world. “Control” is merely a metaphor for functional relationships. As used technically in behavior analysis, if temperature affects how we dress, we say it “controls” dressing behavior. Thousands of other things may also exert concurrent control.
Many think that analysis destroys the romance of the world. Yet with every problem analyzed and “solved” in the physical, chemical and biological sciences, ten new ones are discovered. The more we understand the more we find there is to understand. Ignorance is neither romantic nor exciting.
Finally, reality is not up for a popular vote. Researchers who study behavior did not “create” behavioral laws. No one believes that if it were not for Newton there would be no gravity. Yet many act as if behavioral scientists are responsible for the way the world is.
An Applied Science
Applied behavior analysis attempts to improve individual and social conditions. In education, direct instruction, precision teaching, personalized instruction, and other behavior analysis approaches have great success, whether in regular education, special education, or adult and higher education. In spite of much that has been written, superior educational programs that consistently deliver quality results across all ranges of students already exist. Research has shown this time after time. However, these programs have not been widely adopted yet.
In industry, the form of behavior analysis called performance management produces results far superior to traditional strategies. Many Fortune 500 companies now train managers in these approaches. Most significant current work in international public health is based on behavior analysis. Many behavioral programs related to environmental concerns, such as littering, energy and water conservation, and recycling, have been developed. In clinical areas related to personal problems, parenting, child-rearing, corrections, drug and alcohol treatment and in health-related areas, such as weight control and smoking cessation, successful programs grounded in behavior analysis are documented.
Many new areas are under development. A start has been made treating economics as a behavioral problem. Analyses have been completed and new ones are underway related to creativity. Traditional areas, such as thinking and cognition, will be completely reformulated on the basis of research and concepts already developed. The historic topics labeled motivation and emotion are understood from a new perspective. A start is being made to attempt to understand areas like ethnic conflict and group aggression. For nearly every topic and every area you can name, there is probably some behavioral researcher trying to analyze it and figure out a way to improve it.
So often in our society children become labeled with misguided diagnosis to fit them into a sociatle norm. A perfect example of this would be when a child is removed from a parents supervision by social services, that child is then sent for a psych evaluation and there at that moment the childs’ life becomes damaged irreparably. That child is given a label and that label become part of who that child becomes. When we tell children that they are a certain way, or that they have a certain problem, those children have an uncanny ability to live up to the label be it just or not.
Labels are designed by the insurance companies, the insurance company must fit us all into a box of labels in order to provide benefits we pay for. I say we hire the insurance company, therefore they work for us and we should have a say in what is provided by the medical professionals not by the pencil pushers scampering for labels to put in boxes and on forms to only to ultimately deny us services. We need to take back our civil liberty to be label free Americans.
At Zuma’s we strip the children that come to us of those labels and give them a clean slate, give them the opportunity to be label free. We are a label free zone for kids once though to be: bi-polar, manic-depressive, depressed, autistic, you name it. At Zuma’s while we are aware of the diagnosis, we treat the child with no expectations, we give them the opportunity to show us who they are through guided activities. We do not have preconceived notions based on the label give them by insurance companies needing everything to be neat and in the box.
Zuma’s Experiential Learning Center is run by certified behavior analyst trained to manage how children deal with the world they live in. We design programs not to change children but to mold how they cope with the world. After all it is coping with their environments that children need, not labels to live up to.
Outdoors, Horses, Experiential Treatments……..Out of the Box approach to age old problems. ZUMA’S
Current trends in the therapeutic treatment of adolescents
Adults benefit from their ability to “talk though” their issues and feelings. They have learned through time to verbalize complex and contradictory feelings and reactions. However, adolescents generally find it more difficult to eloquently verbalize such feelings: they are often overwhelmed and even confused by the seeming onslaught of complex feelings that come as they move toward adulthood. The lives of adults also create a more varied environment within which they experience their feelings. However, for teens, most conflicts involve differences between family members or issues over expectations of parents.
For adolescents, the approach of the therapist needs to reflect their current life experience. Therefore, “talk therapy” tends not to be as effective as therapy that involves activity or experience (such as experiential therapy, play therapy, and art therapy). These forms of therapy allow symbolic expression of internal conflicts. For example, in equine-assisted therapy (this is where the child interacts with horses as part of a therapeutic intervention), how the child interacts with his or her animal can give rich information to the therapist. Often times, the relationship that develops between the teen and the horse reflects their issues with relationships within the family. Sometimes the therapist will notice the teenager becomes the frustrated “parent” of the horse, and the therapist can use this experience to help the child understand the nature of the conflict between themselves and their parents.
Family therapy is essential when treating adolescents with behavioral or emotional problems. Improving communication between family members and helping both the parents and the teen understand how conflicts can be resolved through improved communication often result in significant improvements in the family relationship. If there is one element in a child’s life that improves their chances for success in school and life, it is strong family bonds with positive, constructive communication. It is important that parents not feel defensive if the therapist focuses on changes in how they communicate with their teenagers. The need for such a change is not an indictment of the parents’ abilities, it is simply a part of the therapeutic process that will help them better work with their adolescent and find solutions to behavioral issues.
The goal of therapy with adolescents is to help both the child and the parents understand why they act out with rebellious, willful behavior and how they can learn to express their needs and wants in a more productive way. When parents allow the process of re-forging the lines of communication, they dramatically improve their relationship with their teenager and create an environment where positive behavioral change is possible.
If you are interested in experiential therapies please contact Zuma’s Rescue Ranch.
If you would like to support at risk youth at Zuma’s Rescue Ranch please Donate.
Love without wisdom has a tendency to be blind, easily misled, foolish in its actions. Wisdom without love may be harsh and cold, unfeeling in its activity. … It is love that looks past appearances to behold the Truth of being. It is love that enables us to live in harmony with all our universe. It is love that heal…s, prospers, attracts, holds and makes real the good ideas.
Zuma’s Has a Great Idea…..
All are created equal, all are capable of Love…… Love without fear and Live without Fear.
Zuma’s Experiential Learning Center will be holding Summer Horse Camps. Contact Maura for details.
Sponsor a Kid for Horse Camp, give children a once in a life time experience. Equine Assisted Experiential Learning, make a real difference in a childs’ life, give them a memory
I hope you are all enjoying the March session of ELP! I think we have seen great progress with many of our kiddos. I see our little ones starting to push some boundaries and test a bit. Our teen group challenged us for the first few weeks, but I think things fell into place on Monday and the documentary is going to be amazing!
You guys are doing a great job with data collection. I know it is hard, but it really is the way to show the insurance companies and funders that what we are doing works. We will become Medicaid providers as of the May session, which may change a few things. For the most part we already take all the data in information they will need. It is exciting- it should help with funding for a lot of our kids.
Thank you for being on top of the sign in-sign out. As we get more organized and progress we will add and subtract protocol. We will start monitoring who picks kids up in the May session and each kid will have a list of who is allowed to pick them up. We will also be doing a communication log starting in May. I am not sure what that will look like yet, but we will go over it prior to the May session starting.
We have 2 kids being paid for by the county and one of them is court ordered. All steps forward to the counties recognizing that kids are getting so much from this and that it is worth funding!
We are going to start a weekly mentor training. It will be every from 12:45-1:30. We will role play and work on various scenarios as well as go over questions you guys have. Monday night mentors-you are welcome at the Saturday training. If we need to add a training on Mondays we will look into that. Let me know. That training will start this Saturday!
May session sign ups… it is that time again to sign up for the next session. If you are not continuing, please, please please try to find someone to take your place. The Teen group will be May 3rd, 10th, 17th, 27th, June7th and 14th. The Preteen group will be May 8th, 15th, 22nd, June 5th, 12th, 19th. We will be off the weekend of Memorial Day (May 29th and 31st). Let me know by April 10th if you are returning or who is replacing you. We will have a New Mentor Training on May 1st.
We are going to add ELP Volunteer Hours. Right now the Teen group comes and works from 3-5. It has been a challenge but we have worked most of the kinks out. A lot of the kids have expressed interest in volunteering, but they can’t come whenever they want and we can’t offer supervision throughout the week. So, we will continue the Teen Volunteer Hours on Mondays from 3-5. Typically this group cleans stalls and then plays a game. We will be adding a second work task as they can handle it. The Pre-Teen Volunteer Hours will either be on Saturdays following ELP or on Sundays. Are any of you interested in supervising the kids? The pre-teens would be dusting the arena, washing buckets, etc. There would be little horse involvement to keep the need for supervision ratio down. If you are interested talk to me.
We will also be having an ELP Summer CAMP!!! Summer Camp will be the week of June 14 to 18. It will be between 5 and 6 hours a day with a mix of equine activities, games, hiking and possible field trip. We are looking volunteers who can help out with the kiddos. If interested, talk to me.
Finally- We need to do a Mentor Melting Pot Night. Coordinating 20 mentors and 6 facilitators calendars is insanity, add on top the Colorado weather… So April 12th at 8:00. Email me if you are going to attend so we can make a reservation.
I can’t thank you all enough for what you are doing for these kids and what you have done for me. Starting this program is an amazing experience and has helped me to settle into my new home.
Maura Stack-Oden, MA, BCABA
Zuma’s Rescue Ranch
It seems our SYSTEMS today, all of them are symptom based, which we all know treating the symptom of anything will never end the cause of the symptom. No this is not a riddle it is fact and a sad fact at that.
Here are some examples that we at Zuma’s face every day.
Symptom: Child abuse and neglect
Remove child from home, diagnose child as if child is cause of abuse and neglect, medicate child, mandate that parents provide better living environment for child. re-evaluate situation with no family counseling or intervention.
Treat the symptom; neglected child… not the cause; bad parenting. Less than 10% success rate.
Begin court mandated family experiential learning and quine assisted learning along with individual child behavior modification. Have paid facilitators move into family home to keep child safe.
If a family member poses real danger, have home under 24 hour police surveillance.
Work with the family not just the child mend the entire family. Less cost involved and less trauma to the child.Removing a child from his or her family is far too traumatic.
Perceived un-wanted horses population
System Solution; Horse Slaughter Plants in US or Horses in the wild rounded up into holding pens
Develop breeding licensing with fees high enough to cover the administration cost
Mandate all horses be registered with the state, create a medical horse history for each horse
Charge all horse owners and End of life Tax on all horses, this annual tax held by the state will follow the horse for its life time and be available to end the horses life humanely.
Mandate licensing of all stallions charge high fees for breeding stallions
Create a use tax for everything horse, this tax will be a state tax held to develop a humane end of life solutions for horses
Dart wild horse herd for birth control every three years manage the herd size to the land set aside for them.
As you see we at Zuma’s are cause based solution system- VS – the current system of treating symptoms
Given enough time our cause based system will cure the cause and there will be no more symptoms
Michael Hogland of Littleton Colorado first appeared at Zuma’s as a volunteer November 1st, 2009. The weather that day was snowy and freezing cold, but that did not keep Mike and his friends from attending Zuma’s volunteer training. That is true dedication! As a new member of the Zuma’s family, Mike jumped in head first coming out in the worst weather, traipsing through deep snow and slick mud to help care for the equine therapy partners.
This past Sunday November 8th, Mike became the first person to step up and sponsor a child for the upcoming Experiential Learning Program to begin at Zuma’s in January 2010. The program cost per child is $220.00 and Mike wrote Zuma’s a check for the full amount. With this donation, he will be making a difference in an at risk child’s life.
The program will focus on many obstacles faced by the children in our community dealing with emotional challenges. Please join Mike in sponsoring these children. We have scheduled 16 slots for children ranging in age from 7-17. Gather your friends your companies together to get these 16 kids sponsored. You will receive the age and gender of the child you sponsor along with progress reports from their parents and teachers.
We will also need 16 adults to commit to be mentors with the kids in the program for the 6 weeks. Recruit a friend to mentor with you and come be part of the change you want to see in our young people. The programs will run either Monday evening 5-7:30 or Saturday Mornings 10-12:30
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE
Mike Hogland passed away this week in his sleep. A rare treasure among volunteers. Mike will be missed by both the 2 and 4 legged Zuma family members.
Zuma’s Experiential Learning Kids ~ Straight from the mouth of a child.
Why I like horses:
“They are really big animals. They are amazing. In my heart they are sacred. Like the sacred dog.” (reference to the book, “The Gift of the Sacred Dog” that we both love)
What I do at Zuma’s:
“I’m learning how hard it is to be devoted to something. I have commited to this. And it is painful. It is painful to cough up $4. But I did it. It is painful to scoop poop, but I did it. It is painful to get itchy eyes.”
What do you get from Zuma’s:
“In the evening I get to talk to my mentor in the warm room. I like talking to people – 1 on 1, not in big groups – and I don’t get that a lot.
My goal is to ride. My hope is I volunteer enough here that they’ll see I’m truly committed. I’m not just here to make a quick buck. It may not happen until I’m 19 and I’m finally on my own. But maybe one day I’ll have a job and I’ll be able to have my own horse. Or sponsor one. There are tons of possibilities with this place.”
This is why what we do at Zuma’s works! Support our mission, Donate Today
How our son, age 8, experiences life:
Every day,filled with numerous happenings that he is not expecting.
Not knowing what is going to happen next puts him in a hypervigilant state.
Things that trigger him are : someone coming to the door, a loud noise
(truck driving by, lawnmower, fire-truck). When he gets scared he goes into
flight or fight (usually fight) mode and reacts by hitting, running or
swearing. This makes it hard to be around other people that don’t know him
well because he is usually labeled as a bad kid. They don’t realize these
everyday occurences trigger him.
How this impacts our life:
He doesn’t have any friends that come over to play at our house. He
can’t participate in extra curricular activities like sports or art
classes. His whole world revolves around his brother, sister and parents.
We don’t go out to eat as a family or have many people over at our house
because of the stress it causes on our son.
Why he likes Zuma Rescue Ranch:
The horses are big and alive! They can be grumpy or happy just like our
son. It gives our son a way to take care of a living animal and at the same
time follow some detailed instructions. It is great occupational therapy!
He gets to know his horse and develop a good relationship since he is paired
with the same horse every week. Maura makes him feel comfortable since she
is clear on her expectations. She also has an amazing talent for
understanding what he struggles with in life. We have not come across
people like her very often! From day one she could separate the bad
behaviors from his personality. Knowing he is being treated fairly and with
compassion takes a lot of stress out of our lives.
This of course only describes how Zuma impacts our life. The other half of
the story is how the horses benefit.