Animals have a unique way of connecting with humans. Relationships with animals come with a certain simplicity and purity that’s comforting and calming. This is one of the reasons equine therapy offers so many benefits to teens on the spectrum.
By simplifying social interaction and relationships, teens are able to move past barriers with an ease unseen with even the best therapists.
Studies show promising results for equine therapy & autism
In a study conducted in Colorado, researchers found that children on the spectrum who partook in equine therapy showed more improvements compared to children who didn’t interact with horses. Some of the improvements found included:
- Had less irritability
- Experienced less hyperactivity
- Spoke more words
Even after 10 weeks, the participants that went through equine therapy showed a larger vocabulary, increased number of words spoken, and performed better in social communication.
Lead researcher, Dr. Robin L. Gabriels, explained why equine therapy may be different than other therapies:
“This nonverbal communication between the horse and the rider may include the fact that horses constantly mirror and respond to the rider’s body language.”
What benefits equine therapy has to offer
- Getting your child emotionally involved. As the parent of a child on the spectrum, you know kids on the spectrum have trouble bonding with others. Making eye contact, expressing yourself, and communicating feelings are important for social relationships–all things kids on the spectrum struggle with. Equine therapy gives a teen with autism the chance to experience communication but in a physical way instead of verbal. These teens have an easier time interacting with a horse, allowing them the chance to build a close relationship with someone–even if it is a horse. Starting with a horse can lead up to eventually having closer bonds to actual people.
- Developing essential communication skills. For teens on the spectrum, following directions can be difficult. This can be because of comprehension or simply not being able to remember. Equine therapy engages them on a level that helps them understand and remember the directions. Part of the responsibilities in equine therapy includes giving the horse directions. This gives them the opportunity to learn to communicate more clearly.
- Learning how to identify body language. When you’re working with horses, you have to be able to read what they’re feeling through their body language. This gives teens time to practice identifying emotions in a more simplified way before moving on to human body language.
Overall, equine therapy offers teens with autism a lot of benefits. Working with horses helps these teens unlock certain skills they’ve been trying to touch on for years and move forward.
Seven Stars is here to help.
Seven Stars is a program that treats teens with neurodevelopmental disorders. We combine residential treatment with adventure therapy to create a multifaceted, effective program for adolescents, ages 13 to 18, struggling with emotional and behavioral issues as a result of their neurodevelopmental disorder.
We embed the objectives we have for each student into daily activities and teach emotional wellness skills such as conflict resolution, problem solving, social skills, academic skills, self-efficacy, and prosocial behaviors. At Seven Stars, we strive to help our students develop the skills necessary to live full, productive lives.
For more information about how we use equine therapy at Seven Stars, contact us today at 844-601-1167
Since 2003, Dr. Gordon Day has passionately helped young people with a wide range of family, emotional, social, neurodevelopmental and behavioral problems. Gordon’s mission has been to help people find their strengths and their own passion for living a full and rewarding life. He is particularly sensitive to the pressures, frustrations and disappointments that adolescents face that can sometimes cause them and their loved ones to want to withdraw and throw their hands up in despair.
Dr. Day knows that you really have to understand where a student is coming from and understand their patterns of strengths and needs. When we truly know an individual and their struggles, only then can we truly help.
Dr. Day has pioneered the use of outdoor therapy activities and outdoor living as a dynamic and effective therapeutic tool for learning, confidence building and skill building. His programs provide effective, supportive and encouraging environments that help students find their strengths and power.