Thursday, October 4, 2012

Activity #2 - Cause and Effect

As you could read some posts ago, each activity I plan have some major and many minor goals, addressing different areas at the same time.
The first activity I present here is called "Cause and Effect". The procedure is: the horse just will show the desired effect (start or stop moving) if the child shows the asked behavior.
Changing the gait of the horse will increase the joint attention of the child. The most used gait transitions are: walk-stop, stop-walk, walk-trot.
Depending on the field and pre-defined goals for each client we should ask the child to make one of the following behaviors:
-The child must say "go" to the horse start walking - this must increase the communicative intention, or address other goals. If the said expression is not good enough, the horse will not move - there will be no effect!!
-We can adapt it asking other forms: "start", "go <horse name>!".
-This is a good activity to promote oral motor skills - asking the child to make tongue snaps.

Every these examples must be applied after modeling it to the child.

This activity is particularly good to individuals with pervasive develop,entail disorders (eg autism). Some of these children doesn't tolerate a static horse. So it is a good motivation to teach other forms of start moving.
To non-verbal children they can do this activity striking their legs to promote the movement of the horse.

We can break the routine and doesn't move the horse, even though the child shows the desired behavior - it promotes joint attention and is funny to observe the effect!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The whiteboard - all-in-arena solution!

Usually it is difficult to present the visual stimuli to my children inside the arena. Depending on the symbolic level of the child, we can do that task using a photo, PCS symbol, drawing, etc. It is not practical to have the different visual stimuli on our hands.
I have a small and rectangular whiteboard with a frame which allows me to pin anything there:
-Isolated images - naming task, describing pictures, object-image matching, etc
-Set of images - sentence building, sequencing task, etc
-Imans - movable letters, magnetic items, etc
I have always some whiteboard marker on my trunk - they must be thick and with different colors. To draw with them can be a fun and engaging task to both children and therapist -sometimes the results are very funny (especially when I draw horses jumping). Drawing is more flexible and perhaps faster than search pre prepared visual stimuli (such as plastified action images). It is also easy to erase, and children loves to do that with their hands! The activities can vary among object-drawing matching, image-drawing matching, sentence building, etc. We can write, and not just draw, as well. From the children viewpoint, it can be useful to attain some goals to ask the child to draw something - it can be challenging on horseback! The whiteboard can be supported by the horse's rump with the children turned back.
Tomorrow I will post some photos!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Saddlebag - a versatile material

Today I'm going to introduce you a material that I like a lot and is very useful. The saddlebag is composed by two bags - a bag on each side of the horse. It can be placed in front of the saddle or surcingle. Depending on the goal, it can be placed backward too. Mine has two hooks and two strips to attach it, as you can see in the picture below.

It is very versatile - we can use it in many activities. We can fill it with images or other visual stimuli so the child can name it and give to other person or do the image-object matching. We can ask to the child with autism to give us the object we ask (eg, mini brushes) wich he isn't actually seeing (a difficult task to some guys). The occupational therapist can adapt it with other locks (eg, button, velcro, shoelaces, etc) to achieve their goals. The child can transfer the asked object from one pocket to another. These are just some examples. The therapists can also save the material inside to next activity. You can associate the right bag to the tasks already done and left to the tasks which are not  done yet - for example, the child must pick up a picture from the left bag, name it (or something different)!  and put it in right bag. Beyond language/speech goals we are working sequential memory, improving attention and laterality.
I have been observing a funny thing: some children are afraid to put their hands in the pockets!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Activity #1 - Articulation placement on horseback

There is a fun game I use to implement in my EAT sessions, mainly with speech sound disorders. This activity is very flexible and is based on the positive and negative reinforcement - it is not just to articulatory therapy.
So, here it is:
After warming up (the child, the horse and us) we are able to start the activity. The arena just need to have the platform transition and the start point. The star point must be identified with something like a pole. All of us must be in the start point and this is the perfect time to explain to the child (and perhaps to the leader) how the game will run. The rules are simple: each time the child reaches a goal (like a well produced target sound, word, sentence, etc) the horse will move five steps forward counted aloud. If the child doesn't do it well (perhaps because is not paying attention) the horse will move two steps backward counted aloud. The game goal is to reach the end point (which can be the same as start) in shortest time.
As you can see it is very easy to perform and can be very exciting!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Structuring the intervention environment

When we are working with people with attention deficit, we must have always a concern: the environment. Talking about our arena facility, I present you some concerns and strategies:
-Avoid times of day which have a lot of riders/people around (eg, new riders learning with their instructor makes a lot of noise and movement; school lessons; people working on the arena ground)
-Avoid meal times of horses - the horse is likely to be very reactive;
-When you ask the task to client, do it facing a wall or a place where there is nobody;
-Remove all visual distractors from arena such as: poles, wings, spires, buckets, balls
-Try not to present all material you are going to work with - I have a big plastic bag where I place all the material;
-Close the gate so the client and horse knows their boundaries and there is less temptations;
-If necessary, ask people around to make no noise.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Emotional and behavioral challenges

The disordered development probably means a rowdy childhood. Its impact in social interaction usually vary betwen excessive shyness and hiperactivity. From all of the most common carachteristics, the worst are the oppositive behaviors.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"With Autism on Horseback"

This presentation was done by me during November 2011 at University Fernando Pessoa - Oporto, Portugal. The event was a workshop called "Autism Voices" wich included some oral presentations on non traditional therapies with autism. I decided to call "With Autism on Horseback" to mine. I hope you like!

A cool video about hippotherapy benefits

EATHIPPO project

It is a pleasure to introduce you my new project called EATHIPPO.
The "Equine Assisted Therapy and Hippotherapy" comprises some phases.
First I'm developing a database of activities for the following main areas:
Main areas
Communication, Language and Speech
Sensory integration
Some activities may be for one or more main areas. Each main area has major and minor goals depending on target area and client skills/assessent. This is very important since we are talking about a strategy to therapy intervention - and NOT just equine assisted activities.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Our Miniature Threapy Pony

This is Caesar v.d. Kloosterhoeve - a 27" miniature pony. Now he is 3 yo and he lives with us since 1 yo. Actually, Caesar came from Holand where he was born.

The trainee we are doing is about desensitization - he can handle with screams, jumps, many children around him and a lot of things more.
The goal to this pony is to be a therapy horse in equine assisted therapy/activities, mainly leading.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Attention, Stop and Do

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex one. To work with children with autism we need passion! Without it there will be no efficacy. From all the medical conditions usual to the hippotherapy domain, I believe autism is the one that takes more advantage. My first case with severe ASD (five years old) started three months ago. The child was not able to be in the same place for more than four seconds. To put the helmet on his head, we needed to contain him in a corner! The transition to horseback lasted two sessions, but was easy - bubbles were a great help!! Once on horseback, we were forced to walk, otherwise the child started tantrum. Nowadays, after twelve sessions, the child increased his eye contact from avoiding to +/-15 seconds - obviously when he likes the activity!!
His oral/verbal imitation is poor, but we can get it sometimes! The first goal was to be calm when the horse was with no motion - we got it mainly with exterior walks. Then, my partner, and me established the second goal - the child should say "go" based on verbal repetition, to induce horse walk! Consistency and persistence are keys/triggers when we are working. Sometimes it is difficult, but two sessions later, the child said it with NO clues!

MOTIVATION is, undoubtedly, one of the keys!

"You need to work, I'm the crazy!"

Today, while my partner and I were working with a group of patients with schizophrenia in the therapeutic carriage driving, one of the patients told something really funny!! Answering to my partner, who was asking him to get to work, the patient said:
"You need to work, I'm the crazy!"
All of us started laughing, including him!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Welcome and... keep in touch!

Welcome to my new blog. The main goal is to share my experiences as speech therapist working with hippotherapy as strategy. My professional field is Speech Language Pathology and I have large experience with horses. I believe, and this is my motivation, that horses are a great bridge to achieve communicative effectiveness from most of our clients. Every day I do some hours of professional practice using this strategy/tool.