Equine Assisted Therapy Program for Individuals With Autism
Healing Strides’ equine assisted therapy program for individuals with Autism and other developmental disabilities focuses on pairing each client with a horse to foster a connection that will encourage confidence and engaged learning and interaction. The idea that horses might be helpful or healing to individuals with autism is based on the knowledge that horses are extremely sensitive to changes in the humans they interact with. The horse provides feedback, acting as a mirror or magnifying lens to enable participants to understand how their behavior affects others.
Treatment goals typically include:
- Increasing tolerance for transitions
- Increasing compliance
- Decreasing aggressive behaviors
- Increasing social skills
- Increasing the efficiency of verbal and non-verbal communication
- Increasing the ability to bond with others.
In addition, children with autism also benefit from the sensory feedback that comes with riding a horse.
Horse related activities are not limited to riding. Clients typically participate in grooming, feeding, saddling, and finger painting the horses.
Children, adolescents and adults may benefit from this program. Children must be at least 3 years of age to participate. For the safety of riders and horses, riders must not weigh more than 200 pounds.
Terri Jennings, Ph.D.
Dr. Terri Jennings is a licensed psychologist (PY 6802 FL) (PSY2726 CA). She has volunteered, worked and trained in the field of psychology for over 20 years. She received her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Miami in 2002. Dr. Jennings founded Healing Hooves Psychotherapy, Inc., in South Florida where for 12 years she provided equine facilitated psychotherapy for children, teens and adults with autism. Dr. Jennings moved to Humboldt County in May of 2014, bringing along her skills, enthusiasm and her therapy horses to create Healing Strides Psychotherapy, Inc. Dr. Jennings became interested in horses as a young girl, just four years old. Although her family could not afford horseback riding lessons, she checked out horse books from the library every week for years and begged her parents to drive by the local barn almost every day. She was able to ride for the first time at the age of 8 on a beautiful paint horse named Sunflower. From that point on she was hooked. Between the occasional trail ride and Girl Scout horse camp in the summer her passion continued to grow. As a teenager her interest in horses waned as she was busy with other things. It wasn't until she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 1998 that she was reacquainted with her love of horses. As she began to spend time each day at the ranch she realized that horses would need to be in her life in order to continue to cope with her disease. Dr. Jennings also realized how horses transformed the lives of many people who frequented the ranch and decided to combine her psychological training with her love of horses. The rest is history.
Melissa Clark is a registered Associate Social Worker (ASW 76036 CA) (LMSW-36034 ID). She recently moved to Humboldt County after graduating with a Master’s in Social Work from Boise State University in May 2016. Melissa is working under Dr. Terri Jennings and is currently earning her clinical license. Melissa has been riding on and off since 12 years old. She began adopting and rehabilitating horses in 2012 and in 2014 was on the board of Forever Young Therapeutic Ranch and Rescue located in Hayden, Idaho (now relocated to Elgin, Arizona). Melissa ran the kids wrangler program for children ages 3 to 18 at Red Horse Mountain Ranch in Harrison, Idaho for the summer seasons 2014 and 2016. Melissa met Dr. Terri Jennings in the Fall of 2016 and began working for Healing Strides in April of 2017. Melissa had been looking for the perfect combination to unite her passion for working with people and working with horses. Healing Strides Psychotherapy has allowed Melissa the great privilege of working with horses and people through an evidence based non-traditional therapeutic alliance.