Psychology and Child Development Department
BS in Child Development
Language and communication are essential to our daily lives. With it we are able to express our wants and needs without frustration, without it we would not be able to effortlessly engage in the communication that is so essential to our daily lives. Children typically follow a pattern of development that allows them to develop language without delay. Interferences can arise that delay language development including: articulation disorders, fluency disorders, dysphagia, hearing impairment, cleft palate, or cognitive impairment. Each of these interferences has a unique cause and also a unique effect on children. A variety of therapies are available that are aimed to help children develop speech and language skills appropriately despite their delays. Speech therapy, articulation therapy, and oral motor therapy are all traditional approaches that can correct a child's speech. A more recent therapeutic option involves the use of animals to benefit the language development of children. Hippotherapy, which is an equine-assisted therapy, utilizes horse movement and licensed speech therapists to facilitated language development in children. My literature review inspired me to observe a child in two settings, a traditional speech therapy session and an equine facilitated therapy session, to compare the processes and benefits of both options. My participants were a nine-year-old boy on the Autistic spectrum, a speech therapist, and a therapeutic riding instructor. My observations at each location showed the drastic differences that environment could have on a child. In the normal room setting my participant refused to complete most work and left the speech therapist dealing with behavioral corrections rather than the intended speech corrections. While observing my participant on horseback all instructions were followed, spontaneous language increased, and the overall experience was much calmer. From these observations I hope that hippotherapy receives more attention from the child development community because I believe that children with speech delays could benefit from this form of therapy.