Cecilia Llambias, Joyce Magill-Evans, Veronica Smith, Sharon Warren; Equine-Assisted Occupational Therapy: Increasing Engagement for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Am J Occup Ther 2016;70(6):7006220040. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.020701
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
Engagement in meaningful activities is essential to development and is often reduced in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who have limited engagement in activities or relationships. A multiple-baseline design was used with 7 children with ASD ages 4–8 yr to assess the effect of including a horse in occupational therapy intervention on task engagement. The children showed improvements in engagement. Including horses in occupational therapy sessions may be a valuable addition to conventional treatments to increase task engagement of children with ASD. Factors related to the environment, therapeutic strategies, and individual participation need to be considered in understanding why this intervention may be effective and developing a theoretical basis for implementation.
To incorporate animals in intervention, occupational therapy practitioners need to understand the theoretical basis that links the animal (e.g., horse) with evidence-based therapy because this understanding may greatly enhance the effective use of the animal.
The use of animals in therapeutic sessions can be a strong motivator for children with ASD. However, its greatest potential comes from combining the attraction of an animal with the strategic selection of techniques from within occupational therapy, such as those from sensory integration theory.
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