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Effects of a Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program on Social Interaction and Communication in Children with Autism

By M. Zhao, S. Chen, Y. You, Y. Wang, Y. Zhang

Category Journal Articles

Various therapeutic interventions have been studied and found to be effective in reducing the stereotypical behaviors of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). There has been increasing interest in using animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) as an alternative approach to therapeutic rehabilitation for children with ASD, and many studies have reported that AAI has significant benefits for the cognitive, psychological, and social behavior of children with ASD. The present study was designed to examine the effects of a 16 weeks therapeutic horseback riding program on social interaction and communication skills in children with autism. Eighty-four children diagnosed with ASD, aged between 6 and 12 years old, were recruited for this study. All selected participants met the DSM-V criteria, and a total of sixty-one participants (N = 61) completed the study. A quasi-experimental design with an experimental group and control group was implemented for this study, taking measurements at pre-test, interim-test, and post-test to monitor the behavior changes in social and communication throughout the 16-week intervention. Repeated measures ANOVA and the independent sample t-test were used for data analysis, to assess the difference between the experimental group and control group. The results indicated that the THR program had positive influences on overall social skills and communication, based on the SSIS and the ABLLS-R scores, compared to the control group (p < 0.05). A notable improvement in the overall social interaction score was observed from the interim-testing point to post-test. In addition, participants in the therapeutic horseback riding (THR) group achieved significant improvements on six out of seven items in their communication evaluations. In conclusion, after 16 weeks of intervention, the THR program significantly enhanced the subdomains of social and communication skills in the areas of social interaction, communication, responsibility, and self-control, compared to the control group.

Date 2021
Publication Title Int J Environ Res Public Health
Volume 18
Issue 5
Pages 11
ISBN/ISSN 1661-7827 (Print)1660-4601
Publisher MDPI
DOI 10.3390/ijerph18052656
Language English
Author Address School of Physical Education, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen 518060, China.Department of Kinesiology, Texas A&M University, Texarkana, TX 75503, USA.Department of Sports Science, Hefei Normal University, Hefei 230061, China.College of Health Sciences and Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY 14623, USA.School of Humanities and Social Science, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen 518060, China.
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted interventions
  2. Autism
  3. Communication
  4. open access
  5. social interactions
  6. Therapeutic horsemanship
  1. open access