Introducing our New Executive Director
July, 10 2014 
Mark S. Walden, Psy. D

To many children that Mark Walden has worked with over the years, he is affectionately known as Dr. Mark.  Throughout his professional career he has worked with children and families challenged by a variety of special needs: autism, neurological challenges, post-traumatic stress disorder, social-emotional-behavioral disabilities, cognitive impairments, and substance abuse issues. He has a masters degree in school psychology from Trinity University and a doctoral degree in psychology from Pepperdine University. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Children's Health Council at Stanford University. 


He comes to Giant Steps with a long list of professional accomplishments. Most recently, he served as the Director of the High Risk Infant Interagency Council at Support for Families of Children with Disabilities where he coordinated Zero to 5 services for San Francisco City and County. He has also spent time in positions at the Oak Hill School, and San Francisco Community Behavioral Health, Child Youth and Family Services.


Mark and former therapy horse Mancha

He and his partner of 23 years adopted their daughter with Joubert's Syndrome when she was 8 months old. Some of the first questions asked of these new parents maybe similar to your own, "What is Joubert's? And what will help her to live the most fulfilling life possible?" Slowly over time, they set out to understand that this rare neurological condition impacts balance, coordination, and sensory regulation, visual and auditory processing ability.  "Suddenly everything we learned in our academic and professional training took on a whole new meaning. I wish we were parents before we went to school as it was the best education we could have ever received. We embarked on a long journey of medical appointments, MRIs, neurological exams, physical therapy, speech and language therapies, IEPs in special education, charter schools, non-public schools, and behavior therapy;" There are many evidence-based therapies, alternative therapies, and best practices which had a profound impact on her development.  

Mark's Daughter Sasha


However, one form of treatment which helped and she enjoyed was therapeutic riding at Giant Steps. "Sasha loved it and worked extremely hard! She fell asleep most days on the way home. Her balance and coordination improved. Her visual tracking improved.  She developed such a love for horses and farm animals that we purchased a small farm which filled quickly with rescue animals. We acquired a Tennessee Walker named "Mancha" from Giant Steps who was a little too spirited for therapeutic riding. I have developed a special bond with Mancha."


Dr. Mark Walden will be initiating a strategic plan which will develop the quality of the services at Giant Steps and build on the solid foundation created by former Executive Director Beth Porter.  "I look forward to speaking with participants, parents, professionals, volunteers, donors, along with past and present board members to create active, goal oriented strategic plan over the next few months." 


All of us here at Giant Steps are pleased to welcome Dr. Mark Walden to the organization. Mark's personal and professional experience are sure to provide us with strong and compassionate leadership. We all know that he has big shoes to fill - but we're sure he's ready to make a Giant Step!


To contact Dr. Walden with any questions or concerns you may have you can reach him via email:

Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center | 707-769-8900 | |
P.O. Box 4855
Petaluma, CA 94955-4855


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