Research Article  |   November 2013
Effect of Hippotherapy on Motor Control, Adaptive Behaviors, and Participation in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Study
Author Affiliations
  • Heather F. Ajzenman, OTD, OTR/L, is Occupational Therapist, Children’s Therapy Associates, Hillsborough, NC
  • John W. Standeven, PhD, is Staff Scientist, Program in Occupational Therapy, Human Performance Laboratory, School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Tim L. Shurtleff, OTD, OTR/L, is Instructor in Occupational Therapy and Neurosurgery, Program in Occupational Therapy, School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis, Campus Box 8505, 4444 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63108; shurtlefft@wusm.wustl.edu
Article Information
Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder / Complementary/Alternative Approaches / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Children and Youth
Research Article   |   November 2013
Effect of Hippotherapy on Motor Control, Adaptive Behaviors, and Participation in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Study
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, November/December 2013, Vol. 67, 653-663. doi:10.5014/ajot.2013.008383
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, November/December 2013, Vol. 67, 653-663. doi:10.5014/ajot.2013.008383
Abstract

OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether hippotherapy increased function and participation in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We hypothesized improvements in motor control, which might increase adaptive behaviors and participation in daily activities.

METHOD. Six children with ASD ages 5–12 participated in 12 weekly 45-min hippotherapy sessions. Measures pre- and post-hippotherapy included the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales–II and the Child Activity Card Sort. Motor control was measured preintervention and postintervention using a video motion capture system and force plates.

RESULTS. Postural sway significantly decreased postintervention. Significant increases were observed in overall adaptive behaviors (receptive communication and coping) and in participation in self-care, low-demand leisure, and social interactions.

CONCLUSION. These results suggest that hippotherapy has a positive influence on children with ASD and can be a useful treatment tool for this population.