The Mustang Ambassador Program is developing a program for equine therapy for children on the autism spectrum. The program will use an autism specialist partnered with an equine specialist to work on core skills such as communication and language development, cognitive skills and problem solving, developing relationships and emotional bonds, and other self-management skills.
Communication and language development/developing relationships: Autistic children have a difficult time making eye contact, communicating their feelings and expressing themselves. Because horses provide an outlet for non-verbal communication, children will learn the importance of caring for the horse and creating a relationship with the animal. The relationship and emotional bond that a horse will have with the child will assist him/her in being able to develop similar skills with the people in his/her life. In addition language skills will develop as the child learns how to direct the horse both verbally and non-verbally. Horses provide a natural outlet for motivation, and students as students groom and hug their horses, they will experience the sensory benefits as well.
Cognitive Skills and Problem Solving: the specialists working with the students will ask them to perform various tasks while working with the horse and riding. Asking the horse to cross various obstacles, being required to place colored items in barrels, and even experiencing the various gaits of a horse all provide children with the opportunity to develop their problem solving and cognitive skills.
Our autism specialist once said, “If you have met one child with autism, you have met one child with autism”. No two children that have autism have the same needs, and therefore The Mustang Ambassador Program will center around the individual needs of each child.
Further reading about the benefits of equine therapy for autism