YES!

Equine therapy, or horse-assisted therapy, can provide children with autism with an opportunity to improve cognitive and language skills, motor skills, and social skills. More specifically, hippo-therapy is a type of equine therapy which must be performed by trained therapists who use the horse’s movements to systematically improve a patient’s sensory and motor skills. Therapeutic riding is under a broader category of recreational therapy. It involves a patient riding a horse in order to develop emotional and social skills, as well as improve cognitive and language skills. Therapy should be done by certified therapeutic riding instructors, though an occupational or speech therapist may also be present.

While a growing body of research suggests that children gain various benefits through interacting with domestic animals, some children with autism struggle with gauging how hard or gently to touch things. Consequently, interacting with horses—including petting, caring for, and riding the animals—can provide rich opportunities for sensory engagement.

For some children, the bond that develops between the child and the horse can help promote emotional self-awareness. Equine therapy provides a non-judgmental environment where a child can better understand his or her emotions, a necessary skill in regulating behavior and communicating with others. The confidence they gain as they master new skills can be applied to learning other skills outside of therapy.

 

 

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