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Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) encompasses a spectrum of disorders which are characterized as having impaired communication skills, social skills and repetitive behaviors or body movements.1,2 Since every individual with ASD presents with different challenges, treatment modalities for ASD are quite diverse. Equine Assisted Activities (EAA) to include therapeutic horseback riding (THR) is a treatment modality that has been utilized more in recent years for children and adolescents with ASD, as it is thought the connection between the individual and the horse can facilitate emotional, behavioral, and cognitive growth.3 Objective: To determine the effectiveness of Equine Assisted Activity (EAA) to include therapeutic horseback riding (THR) on behavior and adaptive functioning in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Design: Systematic Literature Review. Methods: A literature search of PubMed Database and Scopus using the search terms “equine therapy,” and “ autism.” In PubMed and Scopus the following limits were used: published in the past six years, articles in English, randomized control trials, meta-analysis, human subjects, and free full text articles. Results: The following studies were included: a randomized controlled trial by Gabriels et al, a quasi-longitudinal study by Ward et al, and a quasi-longitudinal study by Lanning et al. All studies showed that various behavioral outcomes were improved in children and adolescents with ASD who participated in an EAA. Conclusion: EAA to include THR can be beneficial to those with ASD. However, due to the large spectrum of ASD, certain children and adolescents may benefit more from EAA than others. There are few studies on the effects EAA has on children with autism, and these published studies have small, predominantly male sample sizes. Future studies need to be conducted and must include a larger population and a more even distribution of males to females to determine both short term and long term effects EAA has on behavioral and adaptive functioning in children and adolescents with ASD.
Ciampi BG, Roy JM. Effects of Equine Assisted Activity on Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. JMU Scholarly Commons Physician Assistant Capstones. https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/pacapstones/41/. Published December 12, 2018.