During Julia's therapy today, I was able to do some class work. I haven't done any this past week -- at least none since Wednesday. It has been a joy being home with Julia but it was also good to get back to work today.
I have been doing some research on Hippo-therapy for a report I have to give in a few weeks in class -- alternative therapies is the topic. It is good reading some of the scientific stuff about the therapy and its efficacy with autism. There needs to be more research, but the findings dovetail nicely with my own feelings about getting Julia involved with horses.
When Julia began intensive therapy, I cut out all of the extracurricular activities that she had. Well, she didn't have that many, but we had found a barn just outside of town that was willing to give Julia very preliminary riding lessons. At the time, Julia wasn't getting along at all with Latkah, but she liked these big animals. She was excited about riding and seemed to find a calm inside of herself while she was on top of the horse. The instructor led her around and around a ring while asking Julia to sit up straight, hold her arms out and up, find her balance, move her body as the horse moved. Julia was still so very unregulated but she was able, at least at times, to do as she was asked. And those were in the days that following directions was more than a challenge. Julia also enjoyed brushing the horse after her lesson and touching the huge side of the horse. Its being excited her.
So there is this, what I saw, affinity with horses.
Then there is the simple and quite practical circumstance that my sister keeps horses at her virginia home. Julia and I could visit and get lots of exposure and riding time. I also have a childhood friend, who lives close by my sister, who has been a riding instructor for years. Julia could learn a lot from these women. Good for extended family getting together and spending time together in a different way, good to have different teachers who teach about very different skills, good to be taught by people passionate about their subject, good to go to Virginia and enjoy the country, nice vacation.
And then there is the research, "Although current research regarding hippo-therapy with autistic children is limited, the existing studies have found it to help with sensory motor, communication, and overall social interaction skills. A previous study on adults with mental illness found that hippo-therapy is effective in increasing people’s self-efficacy and motivation. Overall, the adults became more engaged in their recovery and life. Another study completed on children between 9 and 13 years of age with language learning disabilities found that hippo-therapy was effective in increasing children’s attention, participation, and motivation." (citations removed to make that paragraph readable)
My thoughts: Julia is not ready for sports. She is not able to follow complex instructions and, even if she could, I don't think she could cope with the excitement of team play. She is also not ready for music instruction -- our version of learning team play for Cheshire. She is also not a big outdoors person and could use another reason to get her outside.
But she did like horses a year and a half ago. Horseback riding, even therapeutically, would eventually put her in touch with other kids who like to ride and open her up to friendships based on a shared interest. I mean, how many friends can you get loving dinosaurs -- okay, a few, but Julia could use a less extinct interest. And maybe, this could grow into an interest and expand Julia's world.
I am also very interested that this would be a different kind of learning. I benefited from dance, Cheshire from music. It is good for a brain to be stimulated in another way. This would be physical learning, more directions to follow, more skill to use. Sooner or later, I will start art lessons with Julia -- I mean, find her a teacher, not teach her art myself. I want her to have some alternative learning under her belt, and maybe riding would serve that.
Now to arrange a tour of the barn and hopefully, a preliminary lesson. Strange, but I have a sense of great adventure.