Autistic S’pore boy’s heart-wrenching friendship with therapy horse

picmonkey-image-1This is Malcolm Lim.

He is 13, and was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was around three and a half years old.

The beautiful horse he is riding is Lukas, a therapy horse at the Singapore Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA).

RDA Singapore is a charity organisation founded in 1982 that provides free horse-riding therapy programmes for children and adults with disabilities. It also happens to be the first and only one here that does this.

Lim, who is completely non-verbal (he does not speak at all) in his communication, started writing for the first time by penning his thoughts about horse-riding in his diary in May last year. This, in itself, was a huge breakthrough for him at the time.

Consciously or not, the boy struck up an unlikely friendship with Lukas as he rode with him in therapy sessions. But on Sep. 25, Lukas met with an accident when he was jumping in the paddock, and had to be sent to the veterinary hospital for treatment.

Lukas’s vital organs were thankfully spared from injury, but the accident left a huge gaping wound which required close veterinary care and attention.

According to Lim’s mother, he was never taught how to write a letter, but for the sake of writing to his injured therapy horse, Lim began to write sincere, loving letters to Lukas.

16722509_775444729274361_7971482475661116056_oMoved by this change in him, an RDA volunteer printed the letters Lim wrote and presented them to Lukas, who joyfully licked them as a reciprocal gesture.

His bandage was also cutely signed with a friendly greeting addressed to Lim:

16797314_775445255940975_273685121350310066_o-768x258-1Lim was over the moon — in this letter, he writes that he was deeply humbled by the experience, and that Lukas had given him a special warmth of friendship and understanding that no one else was able to.


With the help of a lovely human, Lukas was able to write a reply to Lim, who was also struggling with bouts of seizures and other problems. The letter reassured the boy, even giving a few words of encouragement to him:
16797583_775448415940659_6834764825026963509_oDear Malcolm,

Thank you for asking after me and thinking of me.
It really makes a difference that I know someone might be sending me a hug.
Did you say carrots? I LOVE CARROTS!
Thank you for your gift!
I have some hay in my room all day. But sometimes I also go out to eat some grass and people come to pat me.
Promise to stay strong with me? (Those seizures must suck :()
Hope to come back to RDA soon for more cuddles!
Love, Lukas.

PS : HAPPY NEW YEAR! I love a little bit of orange sometimes.

With both struggling with their personal difficulties together, Lim entered the Chinese New Year sharing his anxiety and frustration with having to face prying relatives with Lukas, now clearly a kindred spirit to him.

Lim’s words and the feelings he shared in his letters reveal poignant but astute observations of the world, sharing with Lukas how much he envied the carefree life of a horse, without having to cram into lines, both of the literal and metaphorical kind, for instance:

16804163_775446302607537_7388881159264591662_oOn Feb. 15, the day Lukas went for a major surgery, Lim poured his heart out despite him and his mother being ill, praying Lukas’s procedure would go smoothly.

16700456_775447502607417_788519465224613031_o-1-768x460Tragically, that letter was the last Lim would write to his dear friend while the horse was still alive.

Lukas did not make it and passed away after the surgery that day.

This letter from Lukas was the last one he would “write”, via friendly human pen, of course, while alive:

16700226_775447495940751_4880268690696422384_oDear Malcolm,
I saw you in the LoHei video, thank you for coming.
I wished I could be there too!
About writing in the lines, I think we should both try. I can’t find paper with lines so I’m trying very hard to write straight.
Thank you for your advice not to pick up sharp things. I must try NOT to jump over stuff that is too high for me.
I will be going for my surgery tomorrow. I have to say I am slightly nervous. Your friend Jesus sounds like a cool dude. Can’t wait to be back home! Oh yes! I heard about casper, so excited to meet him, I’ve been told he’s a big, cuddly boy just like me!
Talk soon!
14th Feb 2017

Lim was inconsolable to learn of Lukas’s passing — even with his current therapy horse, Jota, his mother writes he is still very emotionally attached to Lukas.

In the words of Malcolm’s mother in a caption on one of his letters, “he doesn’t have much inner feelings with Jota. He must [have] seen a quality of Lukas that he likes.”

Lim later put his grief into writing, and it’s hard not to feel his pain reading this letter:

16700603_776141562538011_3986270536698087771_oLim does however, believes his friend is in a better place:
And on Saturday morning, Lim placed flowers at a memorial put together for Lukas at the stables.
16716216_776772045808296_2029952895509528121_o16681871_776770812475086_1750224710546896330_nRest in peace, Lukas. You can rest easy knowing you’ve changed at least one young boy’s life.




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