The Faces of Autism/Therapist's Stories/Brittany (pt. 2)

The Faces (Helping the Faces) of Autism: Meet Brittany, part 2

Meet Brittany, an Occupational Therapist as well as owner of H.I.P.P. Kids Therapy.  H.I.P.P. Kids is a Hippotherapy Center in Mandan, ND. Hippotherapy is the use of horseback riding as a therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment.

What made you choose your field?
I have always enjoyed being around kids. I have also been very fortunate to grow up with horses, which is a passion of mine. I knew if I could combine my two passions in life; helping children and being able to be with my horses, that would equal my DREAM job! Being an occupational therapist allows me to work with children and utilizing hippotherapy as a treatment strategy allows me to use my horses while I work with kids. Needless to say, I have a dream job!

Tell me a little about how your job relates to working with children with ASD:
Occupational therapy (OT) helps people across the lifespan to independently participate in
meaningful occupations and activities of daily living. Occupational therapy for children with ASD may be assisting them in achieving developmental milestones, greater independence with self-care skills, self regulation, coping/calming skills, changes in routines, motor coordination skills, and sensory processing abilities.
Hippotherapy is just one kind of specialized treatment strategy that uses the movement of a horse.  The horse is used as a tool to assist the child to engage sensory, neuromotor, and cognitive systems to achieve functional outcomes.

Why is this therapy important for a large percentage of kids with ASD?:
Therapy can play an important role for all children with ASD. Occupational therapists are skilled in methods to teach self-regulation, self-care, motor coordination, visual motor integration, and sensory processing abilities. Children with ASD may have challenges with these skills. Hippotherapy is a multidimensional treatment strategy, where the horses movement is dynamic and crucial to promote continual active responses within the child during a therapy session. Just as a therapy ball or swing would be used in the traditional therapy setting, the horse is used as treatment tool during a therapy session. Variations in the horse’s movement, as directed by the therapist, promote variations in the child’s response.
Patient responses are intended to affect specific functions, which are required in life's daily activities.  Hippotherapy is administered by a licensed professional (OT, PT, SLP) who has advanced expertise in using equine movement; and is used in conjunction with other treatment strategies as part of the child's integrated treatment program to achieve functional goals, for greater independence.

What is the most rewarding part of your chosen profession?: 
The most rewarding part of my job is seeing those priceless smiles, giggles, and bright eyes of a child who gets to experience and interact with the horse during a therapy session. I enjoy being a part of and watching them achieve functional goals. There is truly an amazing connection/bond that happens between these gentle giants and a child; and to be apart of this, is so amazing!

Anything else that you feel is important to let others know about working with kids with ASD?: 
As with any diagnosis, early intervention is key. The earlier services can begin, the more adaptations and strategies can be provided to allow children to continue to develop and meet milestones that are age appropriate and typical of their peers. ASD, is a spectrum disorder, therefore can vary and is different in every child.

If you are interested in Hippotherapy for your child, please check out H.I.P.P. Kids!  You can reach Brittany at her FACEBOOK page, email her at hippkidstherapy@gmail.com or call her 701-220-9310 to learn more about how your child can benefit from Hippotherapy and to set up a schedule!

If you suspect your child may have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, there are great supports in the community.  One of my favorites is BisMan Autism Families on Facebook, the people there can help guide you in the right direction, through the process.