Sensory experiences are important for children on the autism spectrum, and horses offer many opportunities for interactions to use a variety of senses to develop. “Equine therapy” has become a great tool to use with children with a diagnosis of autism. There is a wealth of benefits that children with autism receive from the therapy provided by interactions with horses.
The Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy is proud to be able to contribute to the physical, emotional, and cognitive development of children with autism with its program that allows children to be able to learn to ride and take care of the horses. Balance and coordination are improved, and attention span is also improved as the children work with the horses. Children with autism also have the ability to develop independent living skills as they care for the horses, saddle them for riding, and grooming the horses. A sense of self-esteem is also developed when the children learn that the horses are important and just want to be loved. Caring for another living being is an important life skill that the children who participate in this program also gain. Social skills when working with others while riding and caring for the horses are also improved.
Riding sessions include safe and guided interactions with the horses. Sessions are offered for 2-3 hours each week for grades K-12. Many schools in both Sarasota and Bradenton have participated in the program. Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy, or SMART, is a non-profit organization that has served children with disabilities since 1987, and is a Premier Accredited Center for equine therapy. SMART is one of only 11 centers in Florida. This center for equine therapy prides itself on its accreditation and the ability of the center to provide for the individual needs of each student.
The center is located at 4640 C.R. 675 in Bradenton. You may call 941-322-2000 for hours of operation and days that sessions can be reserved.
Equine therapy has become an important educational tool for children with autism, and Live 2 Learn Differently, LLC, a Florida-based company that creates apps for children on the spectrum, has recently created an app that relates equine therapy to learning skills. This creative app has great visuals to teach counting, with a horse as a partner in learning. Counting Horse is a game that uses horses to learn to count. This app features appealing songs about numbers and a great visual experience for sensory improvement. Calming colors and scenery create an appealing sensory experience. Children have the opportunity to make the horse dance for their game score and to have the opportunity to pet the horse after the game is won. The app is available from Google Play. You may also learn more about other apps created by Live 2 Learn Differently by visiting their website at www.live2learndifferently.com.