Southern Tier Alternative Therapies, Inc. (STAT), together with Tina Caswell, a clinical faculty member in Ithaca College's Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, has combined equine therapy and assistive technology through an exclusive program called Strides.
The Strides program puts children on horseback and gives each family iPads equipped with speech-generating applications.
Caswell and her team of Ithaca College graduate students provide intensive, highly customized training and ongoing support. The unique therapeutic approach has helped children reach significant breakthroughs in communication, both verbally and through effective use of the device.
Caswell said that it's the first time the children have been on horseback, the first time many of them are using iPads with speech software, and more important, the first time they've had any kind of access to self-expression.
She said that parents also told her that it's the first time they've been able to have a two-way conversation with their kids.
The researchers found that children are doing more than requesting food and toys and for the first time, they are telling narratives and sharing feelings.
Each child participating in the program is given an iPad to be used as a speech-generating device. Participants and their parents are then trained by the Strides team and the Ithaca College students and faculty to continuously update new communication opportunities on their devices.