Sessions for children on the spectrum target specific goals, such as communication, sensory regulation, gross and fine motor skills, and social skills.
The benefits experienced by autistic kids are largely due to the special relationship they develop with the horse. The therapist will work to create and then deepen the bond between the horse and your child. One of the ways in which this is achieved is by helping with the horses’ care, such as brushing and feeding them, and also by learning about the horse(s).
The unconditional, non-judgmental aspect of the bond between the horse and the student encourages the child to form an attachment and interaction with another living being, which is especially important, and difficult, for autistic kids. This emotional bond can also motivate the child to perform skill-building tasks. As a responsive and exciting living being, horses can motivate and stimulate the client in unique ways!
Communication is promoted by rhythmic, balanced equine movement which offers an effective means of addressing speech and language deficits through facilitation of the physiological systems that support speech and language function. And also by the child’s desire to communicate with the therapist and the horse.
Sensory integration via hippotherapy simultaneously addresses the vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile, visual, olfactory, and auditory systems. This can greatly improve the child’s ability to integrate their senses and gain understanding of how their bodies relate to external forces.
The horses’ response to non-verbal communication (see the ‘Why Horses’ page for more information) gives clear feedback so that your child will understand the impact their voice or actions are having, and they can adjust their behavior accordingly to get the desired result. Your child will learn to communicate with the horse through body language, increasing their awareness of what is appropriate. These skills can be transferred to other interactions in real life.