A horse for children with autism in Honduras

By Global Fund for Children | August 3, 2023 | The Americas | Education

This blog was written in collaboration with Elena Figueroa Rodriguez, a Program Coordinator on GFC’s Americas team.

Centro de Niños con Necesidades Educativas Especiales, a GFC partner in Honduras that works with children who have learning or developmental disabilities, has long wanted to establish an equine therapy program. With the recent donation of a horse named Ranchero, the program is finally on its way.

CNNEE is part of GFC’s Supporting Early Education and Development (SEED) initiative in Honduras. Supported by the Bainum Family Foundation, SEED provides financial, developmental, and program support to five community-based organizations focused on improving early childhood development and learning outcomes for low-income Honduran children aged 8 and under.

Centro de Niños con Necesidades Educativas Especiales (Center for Children with Special Educational Needs, or CNNEE) provides psychological care to children in Honduras, focusing on early stimulation and the identification of learning disorders. Located in a remote village on Lake Yojoa, CNNEE also accompanies parents with support groups once their children are diagnosed with a learning or developmental disorder.

Children are evaluated by a team of psychologists who specialize in brain training with neurofeedback. Once a diagnosis is made, the children receive personalized attention one to three hours a week. Without CNNEE, most of these children would have no access to diagnosis or treatment. The most common learning disorders treated by the center are dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, impairment of memory and auditory processing, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), generalized development issues, intellectual disability, and autism spectrum disorder.

A child receiving equine therapy. © CNNEE.

One of the main objectives of CNNEE is for children to return to the educational system, from which they are often excluded. Most schools do not have the internal capacity to serve children with disabilities, especially after the pandemic. Due to the pandemic, the children did not receive any type of support from teachers or specialists for almost two years, creating a significant educational gap.

CNNEE has managed to accomplish a great deal thanks to the passion of its team, especially the director, Esperanza Gomez. Esperanza has taken on the challenge of knocking on the doors of ten rural schools to raise awareness of CNNEE’s services and to work with the schools so that children with limited resources who have a special educational need such as ADHD or autism can receive psychological attention and thus continue their educational progress.

Ranchero, the stable, and the corral. © CNNEE.

Esperanza’s visits to five schools in the Santa Cruz area, which is northeast of Lake Yoyoa, generated the need for a second center, which opened in the municipality of Santa Cruz in September 2022. Fifty children have been cared for at the center, with brain training sessions focused on areas of the brain involved in learning, such as memorization, attention, and concentration, as well as emotions. A third center recently opened in the city of Siguatepeque to meet the growing need for services.

For several years, CNNEE has dreamed of providing equine therapy as part of its programs to care for children with autism. Equine therapy is a comprehensive treatment that can improve the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development of people with disabilities. The horse’s gait transmits a three-dimensional pattern that increases muscle mass, strength, balance, and coordination, while also improving confidence, self-control, and self-esteem.

This dream is now within reach, thanks to the donation of a horse named Ranchero – and the strong community support for this new program.

Assistance has come from many quarters. The horse lot is lent by a neighbor. To raise funds to build the stable and corral, CNNEE organized a marathon, and the proceeds were used to purchase the wood. A local fishing club donated money to buy the metal, and the labor was paid for through the sale of tamales and horchatas made by the mothers of the children, plus a contribution from an uncle of a girl supported by CNNEE. The man who supplied the horse heard about the project from a foundation that donates food to CNNEE, and he was happy to help by donating Ranchero.

Stable construction. © CNNEE.

With the therapy space and horse secured, the next step is for the CNNEE team to learn how to provide equine therapy. Hearing about this need, GFC reached out to its networks and was able to connect CNNEE to Equitach, an organization in Chiapas, Mexico, that has the expertise to train and certify CNNEE in equine therapy. GFC is also covering the costs of CNNEE’s flights to Mexico for training.

With the donation of Ranchero, a new chapter is beginning for CNNEE – and for the children who will be able to further advance their learning due to the equine therapy program.


Learn more about the SEED initiative here.

“The most valuable thing [about SEED] is that we are not alone,” said Esperanza. “We are now part of a network that works with children and looks out for their needs, and our needs as an organization are supported by other partners.”

Header Photo: Children from CNNEE with Ranchero ©CNNEE.

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