The animals' motion may correct rhythm coordination problems

Animals have helped many kids with autism improve their speech and social skills, but these cases have been largely isolated. Now the first scientific study of horse therapy finds its many benefits may have to do with rhythm.

A study of 42 children with autism, six to 16 years old, found that riding and grooming horses significantly bettered behavioral symptoms. Compared with kids who had participated in nonanimal therapy, those exposed to horses showed more improvement in social skills and motor skills, rated via standard behavioral assessment surveys, according to the study published in the February issue of Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Psychologist Robin Gabriels of the University of Colorado Denver, who led the study, speculates that the calming, rhythmic motion of the horses played a role.

Rhythmic coordination issues underlie all the symptoms of autism, including repetitive behaviors and difficulty communicating, comments Robert Isenhower, a researcher at Rutgers University who was not involved with the study. Using drumming games, Isenhower has found that children with autism struggle more than typically developing children to keep a beat.

 This impairment affects unconscious social behaviors that most of us take for granted, such as pausing after questions or walking in step with others. “I think the horse might serve as a surrogate motor system for individuals with autism,” he says.

Via Scientific American

Responses to "Horses Soothe Kids with Autism"

  1. Fran├žoise says:

    Yes, it does ! Rhythm + sound of hooves on the ground + heightened position allowing a different perception of the globalenvironment: riding a horse feels great (for "ordinary" people, too.)

  2. JuliaV says:

    I used to work for a Head Start program. We took our kids on a field trip to a small farm. One of the kids was a boy with autism. Each child was given a brief ride on a horse. When the child with autism had his turn, it was the first time I had ever seen him happy and relaxed!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I tried therapist after therapist after therapist, and could not get the healing I needed for my longterm illness of surgery after surgery on my legg, I finally went to Horse therapy, and within three weeks, my mind is back to me, I can think, I can smile, I can live again, all because of a Horse, of whom I have adopted since...this works, for the ill and the illhearted and illminede,,,Horses and animals, work...The Horse was an abused rescued Horse, he knew I was hurt, he picked me, our hearts picked each other,

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