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Article: Benefits of Therapeutic Riding for Autistic Children Click here
 
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"My amazing, fearless, non-verbal autistic son Rocco thrives at Nichols Field. The staff works wonders with him. Rocco has improved patience, coordination and posture. He listens to verbal commands and shows a pure love for horses. His favorite part is to trot . . the deep sensory seems to ground him. It's a fantastic afterschool activity/therapy service. Each week we look forward to another lesson." Yours truly a proud parent Maureen.  

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Therapeutic Horseback Riding

for Kids with autism

 by Brie Austin

 

Therapeutic horseback riding for kids with autism has proven to be beneficial in helping those kids expand their skills. There are many activities that benefit kids with autism, but therapeutic horseback riding is growing in popularity not only for the fun it offers, but also for the therapeutic benefits it provides. Kids who have autism or Asperger disorder are able to improve their communication skills as well as their gross motor skills, which makes horseback riding one of the most beneficial activities for kids struggling with autism.

 

Emotional Benefits

Text Box: “My amazing, fearless, non-verbal autistic son Rocco thrives at Nichols Field. The staff works wonders with him. Rocco has improved posture, coordination and posture.  He listens to verbal commands and shows a pure love for horses. His favorite part is to trot – the deep sensory seems to ground him. Each week we look forward to another lesson.     -Proudly, Maureen”Children learn to bond with their horses and care for them, giving each child the ability to create a relationship with one of these magnificent creatures. In some cases, nonverbal kids have started to talk to their horses, while kids with sensitivities to touching and being touched have shown physical affection towards horses in the form of hugs and kisses. Children learn to care for the horses; creating an emotional connection that many parents don’t even realize is possible. Over time, feelings of empathy are fostered, which is something that many experts previously thought that kids with autism were not capable of learning.

Cognitive Benefits

Beyond the emotional bonds, horseback riding offers cognitive benefits. Children learn to groom their horses, creating the opportunity for growth when it comes to following instructions, recognizing colors and shapes, and learning new vocabulary words. While these lessons can be tried in a classroom setting, this unique setting is less intimidating, allowing for improved results. There are even some activities that can be done while on horseback, like throwing colored balls into baskets during a ride. Integrating classroom-style activities combined with the calming effect of the animals can have a profound impact on an autistic child’s ability to learn new things.

Sensory Benefits

While kids with autism do not initially enjoy change in their routines, any hand flapping or meltdowns that start at the beginning of the first therapy session quickly fade away as they are introduced to their horses. Horseback riding engages the senses in a way that is not overwhelming, which is critical for autistic kids. The touch of the horse’s coat, the sounds of the horse in the stall, and the feel of riding, all create a calming sensory retreat that allows kids to be more open to learning and communicating in different ways.

 

Impact in the Classroom

A recent study at William and Mary College showed that the benefits of this fun activity are being seen in classrooms, with teachers noticing better sensory reactions and increased cognitive skills. Improved social interaction and interest in learning were also noted in kids with autism who use horseback riding as a therapeutic activity.

While there is no known cure for autism, activities like therapeutic horseback riding are providing remarkable results for kids of all ability levels, whether they have autism or Asperger disorder. With increased emotional response, cognitive ability, and sensory integration, horses provide an outlet for learning and expression that cannot be taught in a traditional classroom. Kids who learn how to care for and ride a horse learn new communication and coping skills while enjoying all of the fun that comes with being around these great animals.

 

 

HorsePlay at Nichols Field Riding Club in Kerhonkson, NY provides a broad range of opportunities for equine assisted activities in a quiet, safe environment: early exposure, learning, riding and therapies for both individuals, groups and families. We work year-round with licensed Behavior Analysts to design activities and programs to meet our clients’ specific needs and goals. Spectrum families and caregivers, as well as ABAs, case-workers and others are invited to contact us to discuss how HorsePlay can be introduced into an autistic child’s world. Please call Cori Nichols, director, at (845) 616-3608 or email: Cori.Nichols@aol.com. You’ll find HorsePlay on Facebook and on the web.

 

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