Our programs are designed for therapy, both for the parent and family members and the individual on the autism spectrum.
Research into animal assisted therapy is fairly new. However, even among professionals who believe more research is in order, there’s a general consensus that therapy animals can be a highly beneficial addition to treatment programs for individuals with Autism or Asperger’s.
For the autistic client, in the company of horses, many tactile senses are stimulated. The horse’s skin is fuzzy, the mane and tail are rough, and the nose is soft. Discovery of these sensations often helps draw an individual out, stimulating development of his or her verbal communication and interest in other physical objects.
Motor skills are also developed as the client learns to lead the horse, groom, tack and if desired, ride. Equine therapy offers a safe, secure environment where a therapist or other staff person will be close at hand as new skills are learned. These new skills, and the client’s continued improvement upon them, increase his self-confidence, which increases his desire and willingness to learn skills at home and/or in other environments. Learning is no longer scary, but fun, interesting and rewarding.
An individual’s ability to interact socially is often improved as well. The therapy sessions teach the client how to interact with the staff. Group sessions allow the client to work with others and the staff, to learn how to handle relational conflict, and how to help others. The staff has consistently included equine assisted therapy in their development programs. They always have stories to tell of the dramatic improvements they see in the clients. Not only are basic communication and motor skills improved, but many individuals experience improvements in their overall moods. Clients, who before experienced angry outbursts or who rarely smiled are suddenly calmer, and smile more readily and frequently.
As with other types of animal assisted therapy, the introduction of the animal seems to calm and soothe individuals. The playful nature of animals seems to draw autistic clients out of their “shells”. Individuals who start to isolate themselves have become more open as a result of equine assisted therapy. Often, they begin making eye contact with the animal first, then with other people. Soon after that, the client often becomes more relationally open; again, with the animal first, then with people.