Effectiveness of a Standardized Equine-Assisted Therapy Program for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
- 8.6k Downloads
In this study the effectiveness of an equine-assisted therapy (EAT) in improving adaptive and executive functioning in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was examined (children attending EAT, n = 15, control group n = 13; inclusion criteria: IQ > 70). Therapeutic sessions consisted in structured activities involving horses and included both work on the ground and riding. Results indicate an improvement in social functioning in the group attending EAT (compared to the control group) and a milder effect on motor abilities. Improved executive functioning was also observed (i.e. reduced planning time in a problem-solving task) at the end of the EAT program. Our findings provide further support for the use of animal-assisted intervention programs as complementary intervention strategies for children with ASD.
KeywordsAutism spectrum disorder Animal-assisted interventions Horses Rehabilitation
We would like to thank the Department of Equestrian Rehabilitation of the Italian Equestrian Federation (Federazione Italiana Sport Equestri, FISE) for their generous support; Lino Cavedon, Luca Farina (Scientific Director), National Centre for the Animal-Assisted Intervention (Centro di Referenza Nazionale per gli Interventi Assistiti con gli Animali, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie), Claudia Cerulli and Attilio Parisi (IUSM, Rome), and Stefano Seripa (DSM ASL ROMA F) for their precious advices during study design; Maddalena Insogna and Giada Reali for their support during data analysis; Daniela Zoppi and Antonella Piciullo (Centro di Riabilitazione Equestre, Villa Buon Respiro, Viterbo) for the drawings used during therapeutic sessions.
MBo, FCi, SC conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination and drafted the manuscript; DL, AV participated in the coordination of the study and helped to draft the manuscript; FCh participated in the design of the study, performed the statistical analysis and helped to draft the manuscript; MFr participated in the design and coordination of the study; MBr, EN, MM participated in the design and interpretation of the data and performed the measurements; CV, CDS, FB, MFa performed the measurements: All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
- All, A. C., Loving, G. L., & Crane, L. L. (1999). Animals, horseback riding, and implications for rehabilitation therapy. Journal of Rehabilitation, 65(3), 49–57.Google Scholar
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-V). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.Google Scholar
- Cerino, S., & Frascarelli, M. (Eds.). (2011). Testo guida di riabilitazione equestre. Roma: Federazione Italiana Sport Equestri.Google Scholar
- Freund, L. S., Brown, O. J., & Huff, P. R. (2011). Equine-assisted activities and therapy for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities: An overview of research findings and the types of research currently being conducted. In P. McCardle, S. McCune, J. A. Griffin, L. Esposito, & L. S. Freund (Eds.), Animals in our lives: Human animal interaction in family, community and therapeutic settings. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
- Gee, N. R. (2011). The role of pets in the classroom. In S. M. P. McCardle, J. A. Griffin, L. Esposito, & L. Freund (Eds.), Animals in our lives: Human–animal interaction in family, community, and therapeutic settings. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.Google Scholar
- Holm, M. B., Baird, J. M., Kim, Y. J., Rajora, K. B., D’Silva, D., Podolinsky, L., et al. (2014). Therapeutic horseback riding outcomes of parent-identified goals for children with autism spectrum disorder: An ABA’ multiple case design examining dosing and generalization to the home and community. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(4), 937–947.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- McCardle, P., McCune, S., Griffin, J.A., & Maholmes, V. (Eds.). (2011). How animals affect us: Examining the influences of human–animal interaction on child development and human health. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
- Memishevikj, H., & Hodzhikj, S. (2010). The effects of equine-assisted therapy in improving the psychosocial functioning of children with autism. Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation, 11(3–4), 57–67.Google Scholar
- Snider, L., Korner-Bitensky, N., Kammann, C., Warner, S., & Saleh, M. (2007). Horseback riding as therapy for children with cerebral palsy: Is there evidence of its effectiveness? Physical & Occupational Theraphy in Pediatrics, 27(2), 5–23.Google Scholar
- Sparrow, S., Balla, D., & Cicchetti, D. (1984). The Vineland adaptive behavior scales: Interview edition, survey form manual. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
- Umbarger, G. T. (2007). State of the evidence regarding complimentary and alternative medical treatments for autism spectrum disorders. Education & Training in Developmental Disabilities, 42(4), 437–447.Google Scholar
- Wechsler, D. (1991). Wechsler Intelligence Scale for children-third edition. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar