Alternative Therapies For Treating Autism: Hippotherapy

Alternative Therapies for Treating Autism: Hippotherapy

What Is Hippotherapy?
Hippotherapy is derived from the Greek word “hippo” which means horse, therefore translating into “therapy with the help of a horse.” This type of therapy is considered to be a multidisciplinary form of treatment that can be provided by a licensed physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, psychologist or psychotherapist who is specially trained.
How does hippotherapy work?
The horse’s multidimensional rhythmic movement resembles the natural walking gait of a human. During therapy, the therapist may have the patient ride the horse in various positions, which may include sitting, laying forward, backward or sideways, standing in the stirrups, and riding on the horse without holding on.
Who can benefit from Hippotherapy?
Hippotherapy can benefit individuals of all ages who are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders, Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, other developmental, language and learning disabilities, sensory processing disorders, or Spina Bifida.
It can also be beneficial for stroke patients, individuals with scoliosis, multiple sclerosis, varying types of paralysis, amputees and traumatic brain injury. However, it is important to note hippotherapy may not be the right treatment for every client, and each client must be evaluated thoroughly by specially trained professionals in the field before they can start Alternative Therapies for Treating Autism: Hippotherapy
The Benefits of Hippotherapy
On the physical level, it can help to relax tight muscles, increase balance, posture, mobility and function. However, it also has been reported to help sharpen one’s hand/ eye coordination.
It also helps the client gain a sense of body awareness, a sense of self-control, as well as self-confidence. It also promotes and improves gross and fine motor development and function, communication (improved speech and language abilities – particularly articulation and oral motor skills), respiration and postural core control, improved sensory integration, patience, socialization, concentration and other behavioral and cognitive abilities.
References:
About hippotherapy. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.frontrangehippotherapy.com/about-hippotherapy
Aspen. (2011). Aspen education group. Retrieved from http://aspeneducation.crchealth.com/articles/article-equine-aspergers-autism/
Rupsis, A. (2006). twinenterprises.com. Retrieved from http://www.cpparent.org/hippotherapy/articles/introduction.htm
Samuels, T. (2012). Hippotherapy – Therapy by Terri. Therapy by Terri. Retrieved March 21, 2013, from http://therapybyterri.com/therapies/hippotherapy/
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Being an RBT for me was extremely fun because where were you going to find a place where you can be completely silly without having to worry what people thought about you? This was the only job that made me feel like I could make a dramatic difference while being myself.

I also liked to be surrounded by people that had the same goals of wanting to help kids and the teamwork made the job much easier and more enjoyable.

Change and progress was the ultimate goal for our kiddos. The early intervention program was seriously only a miracle because I saw changes in the kiddos that from day one, you wouldn’t even recognize who they were.

Changes from being able to utter 3-4 words where they can only make a syllable from when they started, the behavior decreases in which kiddo that used to engage in 30-40 0 self-harm to only half, learning how to wait during games, table work where they use to swipe and drop to the floor if they had to.

My favorite was when the parents would tell us what amazing progress they were making at home. I used to tear up and felt for these parents so much because it was already difficult for them and now, they can trust and rely on ABA and the therapists knowing their goal was ours.

By Emma Rogers, BA, RBT

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