Theoretical Development of Equine-assisted Activities and Therapies for Children with Autism: A Systematic Mapping Review

B. Caitlin Peters, Wendy Wood, & Susan Hepburn
Colorado State University
In this systematic mapping review, we mapped the state of theoretical development of equine-assisted activities and therapies for children with autism to help illuminate promising theoretical frameworks. Across 42 studies and 22 non-research reports, we identified 10 explanatory formal theories related to equine-assisted activities and therapies, and several informally hypothesized change mechanisms. Guided by findings, we propose that (1) equine movement, intentionally used by a therapist, challenges and improves postural control and motor skills, and that an equine-assisted activity or therapy can (2) promote engagement, a platform for social development, and (3) provide structured support for social interaction and positively reinforce communication. While promising, these three nascent theoretical frameworks merit further critique, testing, and refinement.

Click here to read full article.