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Therapists turn to Hippotherapy to help Autistic patients
GLENVILLE -- Autism rates are climbing. Therapists continue researching methods to improve the quality of life for people with the disorder, and turns out, animals may hold the key.
James Ellenberger is 4-years-old and he is autistic. Every day he struggles to communicate.
"When he was 15 months, he started throwing temper-tantrums that were about 45 minutes to about an hour long, and nothing at all would console him," says Carolyn Huston, James' mother.
James is one of the many clients that uses the hippotherapy program over at the Saratoga Therapeutic Equestrian Program, (STEP) one of the methods therapist and volunteers are starting to turn too.
"James came to us non-verbal. Totally non-verbal, wasn't able to have good eye contact, which is one of the problems with children with autism," says executive director and therapist of STEP, Kay Stanley-White.
Through the program, autistic children like James learn different exercises to better their every day lives.
When CBS6 stopped by the farm, James was going through a therapeutic riding lesson. We were able to hear him say "Elepa-fump," while he pointed to an elephant stuffed animal.
We also learned that each horse is specially picked for each special needs individual.James uses the horse that provides the most lateral movement. Movements that help stimulate motor skills and senses autistic children and adults need on a daily basis.
James' progress isn't unique. Volunteers at STEP say they've seen children experience their first words at the farm.
"His father filmed the whole thing, it was a 45 minute lesson, and at the end, we took him down and we said do you wanna say bye to Burt? He actually looked up at him and said 'Burt.' His father dropped the camera, we all just lost it,"' says volunteer Colleen Taylor.James' mom has been publishing books that help teachers and parents understand autism. The books focus on what a typical day is like for a child with autism.
Huston's next book will talk more about Hippotherapy, what it is, and how it impacts children's lives.
If you are interested in purchasing her books, click here.
If you are interested in learning more about STEP and the programs they offer, or if you would like to donate or volunteer, click here.