Autistic Child Connects with Koi


Autism. Kids. Koi. Healing. I never in my wildest dreams ever thought that those four words would be linked together to share a story and make a difference in the life of one little seven year old girl named Rayne.  And of course one Mother named Alexandria and one Koi Keeper called M. Yet it has and it is a story that needs to be shared and told for all of us, whether Autism has affected your life or not. It is in the healing and the living that we can begin to understand.

Rayne came to the Koi Whisperer Sanctuary which many of you know I am the Founder and Director of in St. Charles, Illinois. It was a typical Saturday afternoon, and Alexandria had visited here before with a friend that has a Koi pond. Upon returning, she introduced me to her daughter Rayne. I was taken in my her inquisitiveness and determination to ask questions and taking in everything around her. Her mom quietly explained to me that Rayne has autism and that she loves nature and felt that visiting the Koi would be a positive experience for her.

Autism is a disorder of neural development that is expressed by impaired social interaction and verbal and non verbal communication.  The behaviors differ, some repetitive, some restrictive, but the diagnosis is found in the first two years of their child's life. Twenty children per 1,000 are diagnosed as of  2012 and autistic children first develop more gradually and then regress. There is no known cure, but as in all idiopathic conditions, there is always a holistic path to healing and connecting with the disconnection. I knew instantly that Rayne was making the connection. At first she approached with her hand, reaching out to them as if she understood their world under the water. She did. I explained the different Koi, how they are all different and that some  even are called Doitsu, as they have no scales and are smooth to the touch.  She was mesmerized with their colors and beauty. Rayne transformed in those first few moments to what I could only explain was a safe world. She understood completely and when the Doitsu Ochiba Shigure named Ki swam over to greet her, Rayne was free and was connected with the Koi.


Watching and filming this brilliant child open up in the most calming and natural way, I discovered it was not just Rayne that was making a connection, but also the Koi. My Nishikigoi, which are Koi bred and born in Japan were all mystified by her... and every one came up to her to touch her hand. They swirled in a circular motion as a family and then one by one wanted to get close to this child that is truly a gifted soul. Even Kyoto, my Showa Koi who never comes up close, was mesmerized by the beauty  and gentle touch of this child. I am in awe. Unconditionally, the Koi responded to her beyond any experience I have seen before. If this could help Rayne connect with her  communicative and social skills,  even if through the bonding with the Koi. So be it. Healing works in many ways.



The smile on her face is priceless. The energy and confidence that unveiled in the time she spent with the Koi made us all believe again. That nature can heal and in these sacred moments there are answers that cannot always be found in medical text books, research or therapies. I was given the permission of Rayne's mom to take a quick video of her and you can see the energy and connection that both  the Koi and Rayne make with each other that can be found on my youtube channel at


As we walked together to see the Buddha Tea House on the river's shoreline, Rayne opened up and talked to us about the universe and that all living things are connected. I could not believe the calmness in her voice and as we approached the mud pond she said "Look M, there is a frog. I love frogs too, watch what I can do!." In my amazement, Rayne took a stick with dried leaves, and coaxed the frog to come out of the water, up the dried edge of the pond, through the grass and to sit in front of her as if Rayne had called a pet to her. The frog was picked up, photographed. let go and Rayne did it a second time... the frog just kept playing with her as she coaxed and talked him to come up to her. "I see, I have met the Frog Whisperer, indeed" I said to Rayne and her mom. We all knew that this beautiful child of Alexandria's, for her time here with the Koi, nature and the Japanese Gardens... that everything made sense to her and she had found her own sanctuary.

Yesterday her mom Alexandria sent this photo to me of her sleeping with her new Koi plush that she bought here at the Zen Living store. A yellow and white stuffed Koi that is the same as the living one, a Hariwake named Zoe that she connected with the day before. I will never forget Rayne's visit here that day, and I look forward to her spending many more days here with the Koi and being involved with more children, that so Rayne too, can be the difference.

Dream sweet Rayne. Sweet Hariwake dreams.



Love and Light...




photo copyright 2013 by  MaryEllen Malinowski, Zen Living by design | Infrared Light Int'l   Last photo by: Rayne's Mom, Alexandria.






Leave a comment