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Issue Date: July 01, 2015
Published Online: February 09, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2020
The Effects of an Equine-Assisted Occupational Therapy Program on Adaptive Behaviors in Children and Youths
Author Affiliations
  • The Arc of Central Chesapeake Region, Annapolis, Maryland
  • Towson University
  • Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Towson University
Article Information
Rehabilitation, Participation, and Disability / Translational Research
Poster Session   |   July 01, 2015
The Effects of an Equine-Assisted Occupational Therapy Program on Adaptive Behaviors in Children and Youths
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911520076. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.69S1-PO1103
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911520076. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.69S1-PO1103
Abstract

Date Presented 4/16/2015

Equine-assisted therapy utilizes unmounted activities with horses to remediate social participation and emotional regulation deficits. This pilot study measured outcomes of an equine-assisted occupational therapy program to support continued research and recognition of occupational therapists as providers.

SIGNIFICANCE: Equine-assisted therapy (EAT), a therapeutic activity designed to improve varied social and performance skills through on-the-ground human interaction with horses, is typically conducted by social workers, psychologists, and mental health providers. Evidence supports the use of EAT for children who face difficulties with social participation, emotional regulation, and motor skills—all of which are within the scope and domain of occupational therapy. However, professional organizations do not recognize occupational therapists as providers for this service.
In this study, we aim to measure the effects of equine-assisted occupational therapy (EAOT) in promoting positive change in children and youths. This will provide beginning evidence for the recognition of occupational therapists as providers of EAT. We also aim to determine whether a statistically significant difference exists in the communication skills, social skills, daily living skills, and maladaptive behaviors for children and adolescents with sensorimotor and/or emotional regulation deficits following participation in EAOT.
This preexperimental, single-group, pre- and posttest design was a pilot study designed to analyze outcomes of an EAOT program and to provide support for continued research and recognition of occupational therapists as providers.
METHOD: Research was conducted at a farm in Westminster, Maryland, which hosts a nonprofit organization providing EAOT. Parents and caregivers of the children and youths who participated in EAOT were interviewed using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales—Second Edition. Ten participants were children and youth aged 5 to 14 yr (some with diagnoses on the autism spectrum), and 5 participants aged 14 to 17 yr were adjudicated youth. The interviews with parents and caregivers were conducted at the start of the spring session of EAOT, after five sessions, and then again after 8 to 10 sessions. Pre- and posttest scores from the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales—Second Edition were analyzed using paired t tests (p < .05). Demographic data were recorded in an SPSS database for comparison in ongoing research.
RESULTS: Results of the analysis after 5 wk demonstrated improved receptive and expressive communication, improved personal and community daily living skills, improved play and leisure skills and coping skills, as well as decreased internalizing and externalizing maladaptive behaviors. However, the only statistically significant differences were noted in coping skills and internalizing maladaptive behaviors.
CONCLUSION: Data collection and analysis for the 10-wk interviews are currently ongoing. The findings were consistent with the literature and demonstrated how occupational therapists can be appropriate providers of this innovative type of intervention. Continued research is needed to expand the very limited sample size and to continue data collection that is amenable to more sophisticated statistical analysis.