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 meaning. They may struggle with turn taking in conversation and topic maintenance. Those individuals who do not develop expressive language typically do not use other modalities to communicate, like pointing or gestures. The last characteristic of the autistic spectrum disorder is having repetitive behaviors or activities. Typically children on the spectrum will play with their toys in an unusual manner, or may prefer only one toy, movie, or activity. Changes in daily schedule are hard for children on the spectrum to adapt to; usually these children like the same daily schedule. Bass, Duchowny, and Llabre (2009) state, “It is possible that animal-assisted activities provide a multisensory environment that will prove beneficial to children with profound social and communication deficits.”

Macauley and Gutierrez (2004) state:

Today, in the United States, people’s use of horses can be classified into two main categories: equine-assisted activities and equine-assisted therapy. Equine- assiste...

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...tations of this study were the age range (6-8). Also, only looking at children with autism. Other children with motor and sensory function disorders might benefit from the same horseback-riding program.

Works Cited

Bass, M., Duchowny, C., & Llabre, M. (2009). The effect of therapeutic horseback riding on social functioning in children with autism. Journal Of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 39(9), 1261-1267.

Macauley, B. L., & Gutierrez, K. M. (2004). The effectiveness of hippotherapy for children with language-learning disabilities. . Communication Disorders Quarterly, 25(4), 205-217.

Wuang Y, Wang C, Huang M, Su C. The effectiveness of simulated developmental horse-riding program in children with autism. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly [serial online]. April 2010;27(2):113-126. Available from: PsycINFO, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 19, 2012

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