Effect of Equine-Assisted Activities on Social and Sensory Functioning of Children with Autism

In: Society & Animals
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  • 1 Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
  • 2 Good Hope Equestrian Training Center, Homestead, FL
  • 3 Department of Psychology, University of Miami, FL

Abstract

This is a replication, randomized control trial, that investigated the therapeutic effects of a 12-week equine-assisted (EA) intervention on the social and sensory functioning of children with autism. Reliability and stability of parent and teacher reports of children’s social and sensory functioning across three assessment times were assessed, in support of the validity of observed outcomes. Furthermore, it was hypothesized that children in the EA group (n = 25) would significantly improve, relative to a wait-list control group (n = 25), in both domains of functioning. Results indicated that reports were reliable, and children in the experimental group improved in overall social and sensory functioning, as well as within specific subdomains, with “unblinded” assessment methods. Relative to the pre-assessment scores, children improved in functioning in specific areas at post-assessment and 8-weeks post-intervention. Therefore, results of the study suggest EA activities may be a beneficial modality for delivering autism-specific treatment strategies.

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