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Abstract

Introduction: Individuals with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) present with impairments in social interactions, communication, restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests or activities. Equine-based therapy is used as a treatment with children with disabilities. There have been no systematic reviews conducted on the effectiveness of equine-based therapy in children with ASD. Purpose: To examine the effectiveness of equine-based therapy on behavioural and social interactions in the treatment of children with ASD. Methods: A systematic search of Cochrane, OT Seeker, MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, PsychINFO, Informit health databases and Proquest central were conducted. Studies of participants, aged 4-16 years, with professional diagnosed ASDs were included if they utilised outcome measures assessing behaviours and social interactions through questionnaire or observation. A critical appraisal, using the McMaster Critical Review Form for Quantitative Studies, was performed to assess methodological quality. NHMRC body of evidence framework was used to provide the study with an overall grade of recommendation in assessing quality of evidence. Results: Eight studies of varying research designs and methodological quality met the inclusion criteria. The participants in these studies were aged between 4-16 years of age. The duration of the inventions ranged from 6-12 weeks, and each study used varied measures of outcome. Overall, studies showed some improvements in behaviours and social interactions following an equine-based therapy intervention. Conclusions: Few studies have investigated the effect of equine therapy on behaviour and social interactions of children with ASD. The current body of evidence is constrained by small sample size, lack of comparator, crude sampling methods, and the lack of standardised outcome measures. Equine-based therapy shows potential as a treatment method for behaviours and social interactions in children with ASD.

Author Bio(s)

Courtney Wiese, BHSc, MOT, is a recent Occupational Thearpy graduate from University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Rebecca Simpsonm BHSc, MOT, is a recent Occupational Thearpy graduate from University of South Australia, Adelaide.

Saravana Kumar, BAppSc (Physio), MPT (Manipulative and Sports), PhD, is a senior lecturer at the School of Health Sciences, International Centre for Allied Health Evidence, University of South Australia, Adelaide. He is a registered Physiotherapist in Australia.

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