Equine-Assisted Therapy for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Comprehensive Literature Review

Abstract

Equine-assisted therapy (EAT) is a therapeutic technique that has been examined for improving physical, emotional, social, cognitive, educational, and behavioral skills in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This literature review examines the usefulness of the approach for children diagnosed with ASD. The goal of the search strategy used was to include relevant scientific articles published examining EAT for children diagnosed with ASD. Of the 12 studies examined, 11 researchers demonstrated efficacy for increased physical and social functioning, communication, sensory sensitivity, sensory motivation, self-regulation, adaptive skills, motor skills, improved volition, as well as decreased aberrant behavior and severity of symptoms. The majority of the research documented improvements in functioning; however, these conclusions were qualified by numerous factors that limit the interpretation of the results.

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Correspondence to Ayla R. Mapes or Lee A. Rosén.

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This study was funded by the first author, Ayla Mapes, out of personal funds. No grant monies were involved.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies performed directly by any of the authors with human participants or animals—this is a review article of existing research.

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Highlights

• Equine-assisted therapy is a therapeutic technique that has been promoted as an effective method to improve physical, emotional, social, cognitive, educational, and behavioral skills in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

• This review examined the available scholarly literature examining research on this approach for children with ASD.

• Of the 12 studies examined, 11 studies demonstrated efficacy for increased physical and social functioning, communication, sensory sensitivity, sensory motivation, self-regulation, adaptive skills, motor skills, as well as decreased aberrant behavior and severity of symptoms, and improved volition.

• The majority of the research documented improvements in functioning; however, these conclusions were qualified by numerous factors that limit the interpretation of the results.

From a thesis submitted to the Honors Program of Colorado State University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Honors Degree in Psychology.

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Mapes, A.R., Rosén, L.A. Equine-Assisted Therapy for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Comprehensive Literature Review. Rev J Autism Dev Disord 3, 377–386 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40489-016-0090-0

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Keywords

  • Equine-assisted therapy
  • Autism spectrum disorder