Background: Anecdotal reports and some studies suggest that equine-assisted activities may be beneficial in autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Objective: To examine the effects ofequine-assisted activities on overall severity of autism symptoms using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) and the quality ofparent-child interactions using the Timberlawn Parent-Child Interaction Scale. In addition, this study examined changes in sensory processing, quality of life, and parental treatment satisfaction.
Design and participants: Children with ASD were evaluated at four time points: (1) before beginning a 3-to-6 month waiting period, (2) before starting the riding treatment, and (3) after 3 months and (4) 6 months of riding. Twenty-four participants completed the waiting list period and began the riding program, and 20 participants completed the entire 6 months of riding. Pretreatment was compared to posttreatment with each child acting as his or her own control.
Results: A reduction in the severity of autism symptoms occurred with the therapeutic riding treatment. There was no change in CARS scores during the pretreatment baseline period; however, there was a significant decrease after treatment at 3 months and 6 months of riding. The Timberlawn Parent-Child Interaction Scale showed a significant improvement in Mood and Tone at 3 months and 6 months of riding and a marginal improvement in the reduction of Negative Regard at 6 months of riding. The parent-rated quality of life measure showed improvement, including the pretreatment waiting period. All of the ratings in the Treatment Satisfaction Survey were between good and very good.
Conclusion: These results suggest that children with ASD benefit from equine-assisted activities.