Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Schulte, B & Weissling, K. 2020. Curriculum for Hippotherapy for Children with Autism. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Brenna Schulte, Kristy Weissling, 2020.


Innovative effective forms of allied health therapies across disciplines including occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy are being continuously researched and implemented for people with a variety of disabilities. One form of therapy increasing in popularity is Hippotherapy (HPOT). There is a variety of terms related to hippotherapy. More broadly, Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) is the use of horses to promote physical and mental health and can be utilized for a wide variety of disabilities, such as ADHD and Autism, as well as physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy. HPOT occurs when OT, PT, and ST professionals utilizes horse movements as a context for their particular therapy. While HPOT initially began for people with physical disabilities, more evidence is supporting the effectiveness of speech language pathology therapy with HPOT (American Hippotherapy Association, 2019). The author sought to develop an effective curriculum to be utilized during HPOT as the first step in an ongoing research project. Utilizing a literature review, therapy observations, and an initial content validity survey completed by professionals involved in EAT and certified SLP, a curriculum was developed. The curriculum targets riders with autism in the prelinguistic language stage who would also benefit from speech therapy. HPOT with ST can treat a wide range of disorders and conditions including oral motor delays, autism, cerebral palsy, swallowing, articulation delays, etc. (Hallberg, 2017). This specific curriculum addresses five lesson plans with target areas in the categories of social communication, language and related cognitive skills, and behavioral and emotional regulation.