Therapeutic Horseback Riding and Children with Autism Developmental Disorders

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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that affects a person’s social interaction and communication. This disorder is mainly characterized by having difficulty with social interaction, communication, and having restricted behaviors. Difficulty with social interaction means someone will struggle to communicate their feelings/emotions, understand how others feel or think, develop peer relationships, and understand nonverbal behaviors (eye gaze, facial expressions, etc). Difficulty with communication will vary among the individual. Some individuals will develop expressive language, while others will not. The speech of those that do develop expressive language will often be repetitive, rote, and lack…show more content…
EAA is a subtype of animal-assisted activities, which can be provided by anyone who receives specialized training and certification. Equine-assisted therapy (EAT), a subtype of animal-assisted therapy, is the integration of the horse into goal-directed treatment and is provided by licensed therapist. (p. 205)

Hippotherapy is a specialized type of equine-assisted therapy (EAT). It means involving a horse during the course of treatment. In order to conduct hippotherapy, one must be a licensed therapist (physical, occupational, or speech-language pathologist) and be certified through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH). During hippotherapy, the client will sit on the horse’s back and adjust their body to the movements of the horse’s walk. “The client does not influence the horse; rather, the horse’s movements influences the rider. Functional riding skills are not taught, and any improvement in the client’s quality of life is secondary” (Macauley & Gutierrez, 2004). Within the scope of practice of the therapist, the client will perform activities that will help achieve the set treatment goals while sitting on top of the horse, complementing their horse’s walk. “Both physical and psychosocial benefits have been documents or reports from the use of EAT and hippotherapy” (Macauley & Gutierrez, 2004). The following three studies provide further evidence of the effect of
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