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Connections - Horses Helping Autism Spectrum Children

Autistic Child following directions.
Five year old austic child following directions by cleaning the horses stomach.

Helping Autistic Spectrum Children Connect

The purpose of the Connections Program is to assist children on the autism spectrum in improving communication and social skills, learn and maintain new behaviors (e.g. self-control), and to transfer those behaviors from one situation or response to another; therefore reducing the number of interfering behaviors the child exhibits. Children participate in specially designed activities with horses. A trained mental health professional and an equine specialist facilitate these activities, in which children interact with horses to improve communication and social skills, enabling them to replace repetitive, ineffective behaviors with new behaviors and problem solving skills.

Goals and Objectives

The goals of this program are to assist clients in developing social interaction and communication skills, self-control/self-monitoring skills, increasing positive behaviors, reducing the number of interfering behaviors and complete a research design. Some specific objectives to enable these goals to be met include:

  • To create a safe and non-threatening environment in which clients feel comfortable in the presence of both the facilitators and the horses.
  • To encourage communication and appropriate social interaction (initiating and maintaining).
  • To increase and maintain positive behaviors.
  • To decrease interfering behaviors.
  • To encourage adapting through modifying conditions of the therapeutic environment.
  • To assist the clients in transferring learning, behaviors, and responses from the arena to their home and school life.  
  • To assist clients in developing self-control.
  • To pilot a research design that can be replicated in order to increase the scientifically sound research highlighting the effects of EAP/EAL on autism spectrum disorders.