We’ve always known how beneficial horses can be for mental health and wellbeing. But did you know that therapeutic riding programs can have a particularly profound impact on children with autism?
So, what exactly happens when autistic kids ride horses? Let’s dive into some of the amazing benefits of equine therapy for children with autism.
1. Improved Communication Skills
Children with autism often struggle with communication, both verbal and nonverbal. But when they are working with horses, they learn to communicate in new and meaningful ways. They may learn to give verbal commands to the horse, or to use nonverbal cues to direct the horse’s movements. Over time, these interactions can help build their confidence and improve their ability to communicate with others.
2. Increased Social Interaction and Awareness
Many children with autism struggle with social interactions, including making eye contact and understanding social cues. But when they are working with horses, they learn to read the horse’s body language and respond appropriately. This can translate to improved social skills in other areas of their lives, including interactions with other people.
3. Reduced Repetitive Behaviors
Children with autism often engage in repetitive behaviors, such as rocking or hand-flapping. But when they are working with horses, they are engaged in a dynamic and ever-changing environment that requires their full attention. This can help reduce their repetitive behaviors and increase their ability to focus on other tasks.
4. Decreased Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are common issues for children with autism. But spending time with horses has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression in children with autism. This may be due in part to the calming effect that horses can have on people, as well as the sense of accomplishment and empowerment that comes from working with such a large and powerful animal.
Research on equine therapy for autism is still ongoing, but the results so far have been incredibly promising. In fact, a recent study conducted by the University of Missouri found that horses working in therapeutic riding programs do not experience additional stress, and in some cases, they may even experience a decrease in stress levels.
In conclusion, the bond that forms between children with autism and horses in therapeutic riding programs is truly remarkable. The benefits of equine therapy for autism are undeniable, and the impact it can have on the lives of these children is immeasurable. If you know a child with autism, consider exploring equine therapy as a potential treatment option. You never know just how much it could change their life for the better.