I have always been drawn to the idea of using animals in therapy for Autism. I see so many people respond so beautifully with animals, I guess that is why we hear so much about service animals. I have watched Selena here at home, and know the calming affect that she gets from just going and spending time with the horses here. When she is just feeling out of sorts or anxious she retreats to the barn to visit Emma.
Selena and Emma have a certain bond that is unlike any bond I have ever seen. Even with the new pony here, Selena is still very drawn to Emma. She visits the new pony but always has to go love on Emma, feeling or recognizing that Emma is sad.
When an opportunity landed in our lap for Selena to work with a horse through 4-H and after getting to know the Leader and realizing she has worked with Autistic children and horse therapy, we were quickly sold on this new adventure. A very kind gentlemen has agreed to let Selena use his miniature horse, Star.
Why is horse therapy or just being around horses so beneficial to an autistic child? I think this article at ASDF really sums the benefits better then any article I have read. I will try to explain what we see personally through the benefits listed in this article.
Emotional Bond: We really see such an emotional bond between Selena and horses, it is as if she can read their mind. It is no big surprise that horses are able to read the emotions of the people around them. Sometimes children with autism just miss the cues of the emotions of those around them, but I have seen it time and time again where these cues are not missed when around the horse. This builds the ability to understand and learn how to read body or non expressive cues in people.
Cognitive and Language skills: Now I can only speak to a part in this area, since Selena has always been verbal. Though I know many times Selena could not express herself appropriately. Though to see her around a horse and listen to her talk and even give commands and take commands as to how to make the horse behave is wonderful. While we have watched her struggle with taking instructions from other adults, we observe this differently when around horses. It is like being around the horse just calms her mind. To see her and hear her give commands to the horse is like music to my ear, she is calm, not bossy, and yet makes sure she is understood.
We look forward to this new adventure and the growth that will develop in Selena. At the same time she gets to benefit from learning all about her favorite animal, horses.