Chagrin Falls, OH – The Horses and Humans Research Foundation awarded its sixth $50,000 research grant recently to a team from the Program in Occupational Therapy, Washington University in St. Louis. The team will measure outcomes from Occupational and Physical Therapy using horse movement (Hippotherapy) for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The proposed project will follow fifteen children with Autism Spectrum Disorder as they participate in 12 weeks of weekly hippotherapy sessions. The project is especially innovative because it will use objective quantitative data collection in addition to qualitative standardized clinical scales that are typically used for such studies.
“Hippotherapy is commonly used for children with ASD,” said Principal Investigator Tim L. Shurtleff, OTD, OTR/L. “However, no systematic evidence has been published on the impact of hippotherapy on children with ASD.”
Autism Spectrum Disorders affects 1 in 110 children and 80-90% have motor control impairments which impact their ability to participate in typical activities of childhood.
“No studies of Hippotherapy have been reported about children with ASD but many children with ASD participate in hippotherapy,” continued Shurtleff. “Evidence is needed to support treatment planning, and to support reimbursement for intervention with children with ASD.”
Age and gender-matched children without disabilities will provide a neurotypical comparison in the motor skill aspects of the study. Assessments will be taken 12 weeks before, immediately before and 12 weeks after the hippotherapy interventions. The team hypothesizes that static and dynamic postural control will significantly improve over three months and that after 12 weeks, changes in social responsiveness, sensory processing, occupational performance and participation in age-appropriate activities will also be significant. The team intends to explore relationships between physical skill changes and sensory processing improvements many have observed with this population after hippotherapy treatment and how those changes are related to social responsiveness. It is hypothesized that these changes together affect their lifelong ability to participate in age-appropriate activities. The study will take place from January to December of 2012.
"Children with ASD make up the largest population being served in programs providing Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies,” said Judy Lightfoot, President of the HHRF Board of Directory. “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to support quality research that will scientifically investigate the impact hippotherapy has on these children. We know ultimately this is likely to affect the quality of many children's lives. Furthermore, it will happen while they are enjoying the equine world!"
Horses and Humans Research Foundation is the only organization dedicated solely to funding research to support the equine-assisted activities and therapies field. Since its founding, HHRF has invested $300,000 in professional research efforts led by six research teams in the United States, Canada and Germany. This is the second grant award the Washington University team has received from HHRF.