Upper Extremity Function, Activity, Participation and Engagement before and after Hippotherapy in Children with Co-Occurring Autism Spectrum Disorder and Cerebral Palsy (2020)

Children with CP can find it difficult to connect with physical therapy, especially if they have coexisting disorders like autism spectrum disorder. Hippotherapy, or physical therapy on horsebacks, can be an interactive way for children with CP to gain motor skills. This grant studies the effectiveness of hippotherapy on CP and ASD. 

Initial Observations

  • Hippotherapy improve gross motor skills. 
  • Individuals with CP often need to improve these skills, especially with arm and hand function. 
  • Hippotherapy also provides an engaging activity for young participants, especially those with CP and other disorders like autism spectrum disorder. 
  • No previous research on hippotherapy has focused on individuals with CP. 

Core Questions

  • How does hippotherapy help those with CP and autism spectrum disorder? 
  • Does hippotherapy improve gross motor skills of the arms and hands? 
  • Does hippotherapy encourage participation in life activities outside of therapies? 

Research Team

  • Dr. Jill C. Heathcock MPT PhD, Dr. Julia Mazzarella PT DPT, Dr. Xueliang (Jeff) Pan PhD