Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Way In


Finding a sport for Ethan has been a challenge. We gave soccer a shot, but quit after a season because Ethan found the social aspects of the sport too overwhelming. Ethan loves the water, so we tried swimming. As an individual sport, it wouldn’t be socially taxing on him. After a couple years of lessons, Ethan can swim, but isn’t interested in learning competitive strokes, like the crawl stroke.
Since we were back to square one, we decided to take advantage of a study conducted by Children’s Hospital of Denver. The study looked at the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding for children with autism. It would see if horseback riding improved emotional regulation, movement ability, and daily living skills for these kids.
I have not done much horseback riding, so I wasn’t sure how it would improve Ethan’s physical strength and coordination. I also had no idea if he would like it. Turns out, he did. Mainly, Ethan liked Pretty, the horse he rode every week. He liked her so much, that when he won an award at school for being responsible, he showed Pretty his medal. His relationship with this patient and gentle horse motivated him to follow through with all the exercises, like posting, trotting and riding through obstacle courses.
These exercises, in turn, have improved his strength, balance and coordination. Before the study, Ethan did not have enough core strength to do a single sit-up or push-up. He also had a difficult time following simple directions, such as “touch your nose with one hand and touch your stomach with your other hand.” After 10 weeks of horseback riding, Ethan can do 10 sit-ups and push-ups, and follow most two-step directions.
I owe Pretty for the happiness I felt when I saw Ethan do a push up. She was Ethan’s guide to improved physical and emotional well being.

11 comments:

LceeL said...

That's amazing. I have heard of riding as a therapy for various challenges that kids face, but I've not known anyone who actually did it and therefore could attest to its benefits.

Casdok said...

Very impressive!

MaryAnn Ashley said...

Beautiful story... thanks for sharing it. I can see Ethan showing Pretty his medal - so sweet.

mommablogsalot said...

Oh what an amazing story - I can't imagine many kids wouldn't love horseback riding. :) Also I love your header - just had to throw that in :)

Quirky Mom said...

This is a great post! I plan to get Apple on a horse some day in the not-too-distant future because it was great "therapy" for me for a few years. I'll admit, partly I just want to be around horses again. I love how much it helped Ethan. :)

Do you know, have the study results been published? I'd like to read the paper.

Honey Mommy said...

That is wonderful! It's amazing the effect that animals can have on kids.

laughingatchaos said...

Hippotherapy is fantastic for kids. I tried to get A in for awhile and had to give up; the wait lists were long. I'm so glad it worked out for you and Ethan! That's wonderful!

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

That's amazing! Who would have thought.

Its been ages since I've mounted a horse! That needs to go on my list of things to do soon :)

hokgardner said...

What a neat story. THank you for sharing it.

Tiffany said...

I have heard of horse therapy doing amazing things for people.

By the way - training for something helps me to stay focused and get in shape.

linda said...

How wonderful! Horses have a way with kids.

Laughingatchaos - keep looking - new therapeutic riding places pop up from time to time.

~Linda
Pretty Pony Pastures