The Impact of the Motion of a Mechanical Horse on the Pelvic Motion and Postural Control of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder




Galbraith, Katie

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There are currently numerous interventions available to treat individuals of all ages and lifestyles with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD; but one that has become increasingly popular in recent years has been equine-assisted activities and therapy (EAAT) due to the numerous physical, mental, and social benefits it may provide. However, it may not be possible for all individuals to partake in EAAT for several reasons, which may include not having easy access to a facility which provides these services, the individual possessing a fear of live horses, or if the severity of the individual’s disability would make this type of intervention unsafe. Therefore, Dr. Brian Garner of Baylor University created the MiraColt, a mechanical horse which simulates the motion of a real horse walking in the forward direction, which could possibly be used as an intervention method for these individuals. Dr. Garner and his team conducted a research study which involved nine children, aged 6-12 years, with diagnosed autism spectrum disorder, riding the MiraColt over a series of several treatment, control, and assessment sessions. Balance, gait, pelvic motion, brain waves, speech, and behavior were evaluated in all of these children, however, this thesis focuses solely on the pelvic motion and postural control data of four of the children involved in the study. After data was collected, it was run through the Nexus 2.0 program, then through a code created by an undergraduate engineering student at Baylor University. Data points from these riding sessions were then graphed, and pre- and post-treatment pelvic motion synchronization were compared. From a qualitative analysis, improvements in synchronization of participant pelvic motion with the motion of the MiraColt were seen from the pre-treatment to post-treatment assessment sessions. This overall improved synchronization of pelvic motion and the motion of the MiraColt from pre-treatment to post-treatment implies improvements in coordination of pelvic motion and strengthening of the muscles of postural control, which are primarily located in the trunk, abdomen, and back. These improvements could possibly be transferrable to improvements in postural control in riding a real horse, participation in sports activities, and various activities of daily living, including sitting, standing, walking, and running. Further research is highly encouraged in order to confirm these suggestions, as this can help advance our knowledge to help individuals of all ages with ASD and other disabilities to have the best quality of life possible.



Health Sciences; Mechanical Engineering