Horsemanship could be highly instrumental in helping children with special needs improve their educational skills, rehabilitation and overall integration into everyday activities, a special education specialist said.
Qatar Society for the Rehabilitation of Special Needs (QSRSN) hosted a Zoom lecture on the issue Wednesday evening in co-operation with Leo Kanner for Educational Therapy.
The lecture by Fathy Lofty, director of the center and special education specialist, was moderated by Dr Tarek Essawi, Special Education Specialist and Psychological Counselor of QSRSN, with participation by a number of people and parents interested in the issue.
Lofty gave a detailed presentation on the issue coupled with latest updates and studies, which clearly highlight the multiple benefits of horse riding as a means of education, hobby, training or sports for this category of children and young people in spite of having different types of disabilities.
However, he added that the main limitation, which makes this method of education unsuitable for certain categories is being physically unfit such as suffering from certain muscle and bone defects or injuries, having trouble in the vertebral column or any disease or health issue that considerably decreases balance and control of the person.
To start this type of training and therapy, which is often called Hippotherapy, the trainee needs a medical certificate from a specialised physician indicating it would be suitable for him and would not entail risky consequences, Lofty said.
The method has been proven highly beneficial for all types of special needs including Down's syndrome, autism, physically and mentally challenged and those with psychiatric disorders.
Lotfy explained that this approach could be adopted for starting the actual training process of children aged around six-seven years, while younger children could be introduced to horses as a way of familiarising them with the situation.
He said that the benefits of this method for children of special needs include enhancing their cognitive skills, motor skills and visual focus and communication.
Besides, throughout the horse-riding training, the child would learn a good number of practical skills in an interesting and engaging manner such as relaxation and control, more linguistic communication, physical balancing and it would enhance their morale.
Further, their success and joy through this would certainly reflect positively on developing other educational and learning skills and boosts their sense of achievement and encourage them to open up to more skills, Lofty said.
However, he cautioned that the horse-riding approach is a complementary method which helps improve other educational and learning ways and could not substitute or replace them.
Lotfy presented some of the most common training techniques and how to start these with children of different cases. He also said normal training session could last for 30- 40 minutes, two to three times a week. However, if a child has the chance to ride a horse with parents every day it would be good for both of them as a way of enhancing their mutual communication, he said.
Lofy also answered a number of related queries on the topic submitted by some participants, stressing this unconventional method of education and training has great potential.