Friday, May 14, 2010

Equine therapy and autism

Equine therapy is considered a potentially promising therapy model for children especially with  autism, ADHD and bipolar disorders. Equine therapy involves individuals interacting with and riding on horses. Specially trained horses and therapists work  the special child to facilitate the desired change. Equine therapy maybe either therapeutic horseback riding or hippo therapy.  Hippotherapy is a form of physical, occupational and speech therapy in which a therapist uses the characteristic movements of a horse to provide carefully graded sensory input. It is more complex than your therapeutic riding. To do therapeutic horseback riding the child need not have previous experience with a horse. We initially had tried this when Ramam was very young around 2 years. Then his trainer would make him sit on a blanket on the horseback .This way, one feels the movement of the horse better. We used to carry sugar cubes and carrots for the horses. After a hiatus of 8 years he is back to it again. But now he sits on a saddle.
                               It is important to use trained horses for this purpose. Horses are can be trained to respond to simple commands as a whoa, whoa or move back and hence is known to work well with autistic kids. The kids can be taught to give these simple instructions and they are in control of a situation for a change. The children learn to interact with their horse and may extend their learning to other situations. This helps them form meaningful relationships with people. “It has been clinically proven being in the vicinity of horses can change brainwave patterns. They have a calming influence which stops people from being fixated on past or negative events, “says Franklin who works with special children and horses in the UK.
                                   The theory of horseriding apart, kids in general enjoy horse riding .My daughter loves it. They are also taking instruction from the instructor such as pull the rein, bring the horse to a stop, and swing your right leg to get down. Over a period of time this would probably become habit. From my precarious understanding of this therapy model, it is important to for the child and the horse to bond. This may happen only if the same horse is used every time. The child knows the horse by its name and begins to understand and handle the horse. I remember the smile on Ramam’s face when his horse broke into a trot after they started to hurry back when it began to drizzle.
                   
      

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