Title

A systematic mapping review of equine-assisted activities and therapies for children with autism: Implications for occupational therapy

Location

New River Room A

Start Time

2-10-2015 3:00 PM

End Time

2-10-2015 4:30 PM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

Equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) involve the use of a horse to help people with a variety of health conditions, including children with autism. EAAT are activity-based, occurring in everyday equine environments like stables, riding arenas, and trails. EAAT have grown in popularity, however EAAT literature has not been systematically synthesized.

Our purpose was to create a comprehensive map from an occupational perspective of refereed literature on EAAT for children with autism published between 1980 and 2014. This map will guide future research, practice, and education by identifying strengths and gaps in the literature from an occupational perspective.

A search of 9 databases produced 1541 peer-reviewed articles. Through a process of inclusion/exclusion, 234 papers were deemed directly relevant to EAAT; 25 of those were relevant to children with autism. The research team developed a data extraction tool (DET) to systematically extract information from each of the included articles. In developing the DET, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) (World Health Organization, 2002) was used to categorize outcomes, revealing to what extent EAAT literature addressed the child’s body functions, activities, and participation. The team achieved 90% interrater reliability in use of the DET. Data were analyzed in Microsoft Access and Excel to produce descriptive statistics, thus creating a comprehensive map of the literature.

Overall, 25 articles were directly relevant to EAAT for children with autism; 15 articles addressed autism exclusively, while 10 addressed a variety of conditions. Twenty articles were research, and six were conceptual/theoretical pieces. Research studies implemented a variety of designs, most commonly single-group presttest-posttest designs. Therapeutic riding (10 studies) and hippotherapy (four studies) were the most commonly studied interventions. Many theoretical rationales were used to explain how EAAT affected change in participants, including but not limited to: motor learning theories, behavioral theories, sensory integration theory, human-animal bond theories, and dynamic systems theory. Sixteen studies measured outcomes categorized as ICF body functions, while only ten studies measured outcomes categorized as ICF activity or participation. The most commonly measured outcomes include: communication, interpersonal interaction, sensory processing, balance, and autism symptomology.

In summary, despite the occupational nature of EAAT, literature pertaining to EAAT for children with autism has never been synthesized from an occupational perspective. This study implemented a unique methodology to provide an occupational lens to EAAT by systematically mapping the literature and categorizing outcomes using the ICF. This revealed that few EAAT studies measured the child’s ability to meaningfully participate at home, school, or in the community, presenting an opportunity for future research from an occupational perspective. Informed by existing EAAT literature, a new theoretical basis is proposed for how the horse can be utilized within occupational therapy practice to increase the child with autism’s ability to participate fully in life. Overall this systematic mapping review will guide future research, practice and education in the field of EAAT for children with autism.

Keywords: equine-assisted activities and therapies; occupational therapy; International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health

References

World Health Organization. (2002). Towards a common language for functioning, disability and health: ICF: World Health Organisation.

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Oct 2nd, 3:00 PM Oct 2nd, 4:30 PM

A systematic mapping review of equine-assisted activities and therapies for children with autism: Implications for occupational therapy

New River Room A

Equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) involve the use of a horse to help people with a variety of health conditions, including children with autism. EAAT are activity-based, occurring in everyday equine environments like stables, riding arenas, and trails. EAAT have grown in popularity, however EAAT literature has not been systematically synthesized.

Our purpose was to create a comprehensive map from an occupational perspective of refereed literature on EAAT for children with autism published between 1980 and 2014. This map will guide future research, practice, and education by identifying strengths and gaps in the literature from an occupational perspective.

A search of 9 databases produced 1541 peer-reviewed articles. Through a process of inclusion/exclusion, 234 papers were deemed directly relevant to EAAT; 25 of those were relevant to children with autism. The research team developed a data extraction tool (DET) to systematically extract information from each of the included articles. In developing the DET, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) (World Health Organization, 2002) was used to categorize outcomes, revealing to what extent EAAT literature addressed the child’s body functions, activities, and participation. The team achieved 90% interrater reliability in use of the DET. Data were analyzed in Microsoft Access and Excel to produce descriptive statistics, thus creating a comprehensive map of the literature.

Overall, 25 articles were directly relevant to EAAT for children with autism; 15 articles addressed autism exclusively, while 10 addressed a variety of conditions. Twenty articles were research, and six were conceptual/theoretical pieces. Research studies implemented a variety of designs, most commonly single-group presttest-posttest designs. Therapeutic riding (10 studies) and hippotherapy (four studies) were the most commonly studied interventions. Many theoretical rationales were used to explain how EAAT affected change in participants, including but not limited to: motor learning theories, behavioral theories, sensory integration theory, human-animal bond theories, and dynamic systems theory. Sixteen studies measured outcomes categorized as ICF body functions, while only ten studies measured outcomes categorized as ICF activity or participation. The most commonly measured outcomes include: communication, interpersonal interaction, sensory processing, balance, and autism symptomology.

In summary, despite the occupational nature of EAAT, literature pertaining to EAAT for children with autism has never been synthesized from an occupational perspective. This study implemented a unique methodology to provide an occupational lens to EAAT by systematically mapping the literature and categorizing outcomes using the ICF. This revealed that few EAAT studies measured the child’s ability to meaningfully participate at home, school, or in the community, presenting an opportunity for future research from an occupational perspective. Informed by existing EAAT literature, a new theoretical basis is proposed for how the horse can be utilized within occupational therapy practice to increase the child with autism’s ability to participate fully in life. Overall this systematic mapping review will guide future research, practice and education in the field of EAAT for children with autism.

Keywords: equine-assisted activities and therapies; occupational therapy; International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health