Hello there! Perhaps I can help. I am an Occupational Therapist and have acquired special training and certifications in the area of Hippotherapy, & Therapeutic Riding. The majority of my caseload was children with disabilities, mostly on the Autism spectrum.
The American Hippotherapy Association has formal literature regarding providing Physical, Occupational or Speech Therapy with the help of a horse (using the movements of the horse to be therapeutic modality during treatment sessions). Hippotherapy is different than "Therapeutic Riding" which is the act and end goal of teaching a child/adult with a disability 'how to ride'.
There are measurable, physical, social and emotional benefits of both, however, treatment of the child/adult based on the disability/symptomology can be achieved more with Hippotherapy as it can only be practiced by trained and approved Occupational, Physical and Speech Therapists.
PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) --formerly known as NARHA, provides accreditation of centers/organizations that provide Therapeutic Riding AND Hippotherapy. Both organizations are very valuable resources for researching benefits of equine involved works with people with disabilities.
Thank you so much, you are so awesome! I'd love to send you through a questionnaire. Your information about the differences between Therapeutic riding and Hippotherapy is out of left field for me, but gives me even more to work with.
My cousin was surprised that this autistic man could actually ride the horse, not just sit on it, yet could not remember how to get on. Another memory. My nephew, a fireman, volunteered with autistic kids. He took his charge skiing and learned that they don't like that type of movement. If Mike put him on his skis in front and held on the child seemed to enjoy it, but wouldn't even try to take a step on his own skis. They skied many times but only on shared skis. He tried everything to cajole him into skiing that normal kids would have responded to, to no avail.
Here it is... Motivation at its finest. My non-verbal kid SPOKE yesterday. I had him for camp the past few days and he's level of functioning is maybe that of a two year old. Needless to say I had to tailor my who day to a to a "camp" for him. The first day I tried taking him on the cart with the donkeys because I was at a loss for what to do.... Well he sat there for over an hour while I drove them both and didn't want to get off. Day two I hook them up and this is what I get...
After grunting and grinding his teeth he says "more walk", which we were working on the signs for. Well he knows more, we're working on doing walk by himself without me touching him (if I put my finger tips on his forearm he will do it just fine without help). Posted via Mobile Device
My younger cousins both have autism. Matt isn't much into horses but if you give him a computer, nano chip, anything mechanical/electrical, he'll fix it and have it better than new.
Ryan on the other hand LOVES horses. He gets frustrated when the horse (my poor saint of a mare, lol) doesn't do exactly as he asked (he'll only neck rein, and my mare only neck reins on one side lol), he gets upset. If the horse won't stop fast enough for him, he yanks on the reins. He wants to learn, he just needs someone who will take the time and have the right horse to teach him with how he needs taught.
He had tons of fun when I lunged him on my pretty girl.(:
It really depends on the kid to see what they'll get on it and how high-functioning the autism is. Riding is more effective for some kids than others. We have a range of autistic riders at the therapeutic barn I volunteer at with all different levels, some who do hippotherapy and some who do therapeutic lessons.
Riding is a LOT of sensory input, so for some kids it can be distracting. But for some kids, riding helps them to focus on specific tasks and do things step by step. Others it helps them to pay attention to what's going on around them and respond. Some just focus their attention on the horse. Even just being around horses are good for some kids.
In the past few years I've volunteered at this barn, I can think of several kids who have made great improvements not only in their riding but their behavior and ability to focus. There's just something about horses
Hey guys, thanks for sharing your stories. SlideStop, I watched your video and its awesome. Isuel, I really hope your little cousin finds the right person and the right horse to work with. Faiza425, I agree. I definitely think it depends on the child and their severity.
My best friend is autistic and rides horses (she doesn't know she's my best friend yet, lol). I think it does have a positive affect on the person, although horses are unpredictable creatures, and you know autistics, they get easily frustrated and go into a rage where they can't always stop themselves. I'm not saying this is always the case though. Horses can easily frustrate and autistic person unless they're really well trained. My friend said to me that she sometimes gets really angry at her pony, but then she feels really bad afterwards. I don't know if this helps, just sharing what I know.