For years, the bond between man and animal has proven to be effective for healing. Horses are used by physical, speech and occupational therapists to help reach their patients on a personal level using what is known as ‘hippotherapy’. Children with autism have been known to greatly benefit from equine therapy due to the range of different sensations experienced when they are caring for or riding a horse.
Creating the Emotional Bond
Most children who have autism have difficulty when it comes to bonding emotionally with others. As the parent of an autistic child you will know that it is hard for your child to make direct eye contact or effectively communicate what it is that they are feeling. Expressing themselves can be difficult to an autistic child. This is where horses can come in useful for children with autism. By patting, hugging, riding and brushing a horse, autistic children can communicate physically rather than verbally with the animal. By learning to care for a horse, the care that they provide is associated with feelings and subsequently an emotional bond is constructed. This bond can help autistic kids develop skills when it comes to effectively communicating with other people in their life as well.
Cognitive and Language Skills Development
It’s not uncommon for autistic children to have difficulty comprehending normal directions. Engaging in equine therapy allows an autistic child to follow directions through a fun activity, making taking direction easier to grasp and remember. The child also gives the horse direction through non-verbal communication when riding, providing them with more opportunities to communicate in a manner that they understand better. Children are naturally motivated to move; therefore the child will be more exited and motivated to communicate with the horse or pony. During equine therapy, there are plenty of opportunities for an autistic child’s cognitive concepts to naturally improve. Many therapists have children take part in a number of activities such as throwing balls in baskets whilst riding or carrying out physical actions to a favorite song, all whilst still sitting on the horse.
Equine therapy can also help to liven the sensory preceptors which are found in the vestibular sense organs located inside the inner ear. Balance and spatial orientation are experienced through these organs, and are simulated through a change in direction, incline, or speed. Riding a horse can help to make an autistic child more in tune with their senses. This makes equine therapy an exciting and fun thing to do, in turn motivating your child to continue to be engaged. Autistic children can often have difficulty concentrating, however riding a horse and interacting with these animals appeals to them on a level which they can relate to and understand which is why it is so beneficial.
If you think that your autistic child will benefit from equine therapy, the first step is to find a center or riding school which provides the service. Don’t forget to visit an equine store to get your child fully kitted out with safety gear! One Stop Equine Shop provides everything you need – visit their equine shop here.