Date of Graduation

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science Education

Degree Level

Undergraduate

Department

Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders

Advisor

Frazier, Kimberly

Reader

Bowers, Lisa

Second Reader

Bowers, Andrew

Abstract

Individuals with developmental disabilities commonly present characteristics that include deficits in social and communicative abilities. A number of intervention strategies have been implemented, but none have proven to be most effective. A somewhat novel approach known as equine assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) involves the utilization of horses during intervention and has shown to be effective in areas concerning quality of life, social functioning, self-regulation, adaptive behaviors, motor control, and motivation.

The purpose of the current study is to examine the effects of EAA on social skills and expressive language in 2-4 children diagnosed with developmental disability. Participants engaged in 6 weeks of EAA at Equestrian Bridges, a local not-for-profit organization. Sessions were one hour and occurred once a week. Prior to the first session, participants’ guardians completed the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS) and the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) questionnaires. A conversational language sample was elicited from each of the participants. Each session consisted of time spent learning a new vocabulary word, greeting and brushing miniature horses, leading the horses while engaging in activities, and reviewing the vocabulary word of the day. The final 3 sessions also included horseback riding. Following the last session, participants’ guardians completed the SSIS and BRIEF questionnaires again, and a second conversational language sample was elicited. Results suggested EAA may contribute to increased social skills, fewer problem behaviors, and improved executive function. Gains in expressive language were also noted, such as increased length and ease of conversation.

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