Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder typically exhibit deficits in language, sensory processing, and social development. Hippotherapy is an effective tool for treating autism because it provides strong sensory stimulation to the riders joints and muscles. Visual stimulation occurs with watching other riders. Hearing the sound of horse hoofs and smelling the barn aromas impact other senses.
Communication and auditory processing goals are addressed during a hippotherapy session when the therapist asks the rider to follow 1 or 2 step directions, such as giving a high 5 or turning around backwards. The rider is encouraged to communicate by telling their horse to go, either by verbal commands like “go” or “walk on”, or by actions such as tapping or nodding.
Social goals are addressed during hippotherapy through the special relationship that the child develops with his or her horse. The attachment between the horse and rider creates interaction with another living being, which is especially difficult for kids with autism to achieve.
Hippotherapy helps to develop memory, concentration, attention to task, balance, coordination, body awareness, and improved socialization. And the best part is that the kids don’t see it as work, for them it is just a lot of fun!