Practical resources for therapeutic horseback riding programs that support students on the autism spectrum
Master of Education
Autism spectrum disorder
Therapeutic horseback riding
Equine-assisted therapies (autism)
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Over the past decade, equine-assisted interventions have become increasingly popular as assistive programs for individuals with specialized needs (Gabriels et al., 2012) given the adaptability of these interventions and their ability to incorporate a variety of occupational therapies in a natural environment (Hallberg, 2018a). As a result of the increase in public and global interest towards equine-assisted interventions, there have been numerous studies revealing the benefits for a variety of targeted populations (Anderson & Meints, 2016; Bass et al., 2016; Borgi et al., 2016; Hallberg, 2018a; Lac, 2017; McDaniel Peters & Wood, 2017; Ratcliffe & Sanekane, 2009). Some of these populations include at-risk youth, individuals with exceptionalities, violent offenders, veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and autism spectrum disorders. In the review of the literature on the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding for individuals on the autism spectrum, several authors highlighted a variety of limitations in the research which included: small sample size, lack of diversity within sample size, lack of control groups, no structured or standardized form of measuring participant progress, sessions not being individualized to participants, and no participant voice (McDaniel Peters & Wood, 2017; Ratcliffe & Sanekane, 2009; Vincent & Farkas, 2017). One major limitation recognized by a variety of researchers was the lack of detailed and well-designed session structures which is defined as the framework of how lessons or the overall programs are designed based on the participants’ specific goals (Anderson & Meints, 2016; Bass et al., 2016; Borgi et al., 2016; McDaniel Peters & Wood, 2017; Ratcliffe & Sanekane, 2009; Rigby & Grandjean, 2016). The objective of this portfolio was to design a curriculum guide to help support future therapeutic riding instructors in designing lessons for children and youth on the autism spectrum. Furthermore, my portfolio includes approaches and resources that can serve as a form of professional development to educators seeking to learn more about this unique and holistic form of intervention. Overall, I hope this research will connect school boards and educational institutions to alternative programs (such as the one at WindReach) which allows students to benefit from both the human-animal bond and being in a natural, outdoor environment.