Avery was born with hydrocephalus due to Dandy Walker Variant, and was later diagnosed with Spastic Diplegic Cerebral Palsy. Her Mom, Josephine, started taking her to hippotherapy when she was about 2 yrs old, at the recommendation of Avery's physical therapist, and she went once a week for about 6-10 week session during the spring and fall for a couple of years.
Here is what Josephine has to say about their experiences:
Why did you decide to try hippotherapy?
It seemed like it was worth a shot.
Describe a typical session:
She was given various tasks while sitting on the horse - letting go with one hand, reaching for balls/bubbles/rings, standing up in the stirrups and trying to hold her arms out straight. Sometimes they would have her turn around in the saddle so she was sitting backwards, and sometimes she would kneel on all fours on the saddle while the horse walked around the ring. All sorts of activities to encourage better balance and develop core strength and stability. Our therapist also started and ended each session with a test of Avery's balance/stepping skills, recording how long she could stand unaided, and (later on) how many independent steps she could take.
Please share some of the changes (good and bad) you saw in your child:
By the end of the last session we did (when she was 3), Avery was able to take up to 9 independent steps and balance unaided for up to 8 minutes. Also, just sitting on the horse was a superb stretch for her adductors - she was able to separate her legs much further.
Would you recommend it to someone in a similar situation?
What do you wish you had known when you were making the decision to try it out?
I don't know, but I wish we could do it again. Since we got released from our traditional PT (because we started doing ABM), we can't get it covered by our insurance anymore.
Please share some of the details of your experiences, past or present. By sharing, we are a support system to each other as we each try to navigate through the special needs world!
Avery loved hippotherapy, it was excellent exercise which felt like playing! She achieves so much more when it is fun. She loved the horses, and the therapists and volunteers were always wonderful. I would really like to be able to do it again.
Please visit Josephine's blog to learn more about Avery's progress.