My two children aged 8 and 9 both have high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder and one has hypermobile joints and low muscle tone. We have struggled to find physical activities that are within their social, emotional and physical capabilities and that they can succeed at and improve at.
We have tried running groups, soccer, tennis and Taekwondo and they have just struggled to keep up with their same aged peers. They have also been doing Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy for many years and can become a bit resistant to therapies unless there is a constant change in approach.
I like EEL because it is a physical activity that is outside in the fresh air in a beautiful spot and is within their capabilities. I would describe EEL as like occupational therapy and speech therapy but because it is centred around horses with no focus on what is wrong with the person that needs fixing it is less confrontational than other “therapies”.
I find EEL very positive whereas some therapies which take an approach of the person needs fixing can be confrontational. My son is anxious about all animals and smells and physical discomfort (like lumpy socks and clothing labels). The EEL sessions have improved his anxiety about animals and his sensory sensitivities. He is becoming more tolerant of sand in his shoes, horse smells on his hands and is enjoying touching the horses.
My daughter loves horses and has become obsessed with horses which is a relief after some of the unusual obsessions she has had previously! Working with horses has improved her proprioceptive skills – her ability to understand where her body is in space and in relation to other things. She has gained a lot of confidence since she started to work with horses. In addition, being able to talk sensibly about horses to her peers has improved her social skills (she hasn’t always been able to speak sensible about something she is interested in!)