The Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology has launched a new pilot program aimed at helping nonverbal children, mainly those with autism, work on their communication skills.
The program, called Strides, is an equine therapy program that incorporates a communication development component using speech-generating software on a device such as an iPad. Three graduate students—Lauren Vollmin, M.S. ’13; Maritsa Sherenian, M.S. ’13; and Caitlyn Bergin, M.S. ’13—worked on the program at a nearby horse stable.
The recreational atmosphere motivates the children to communicate to others what they are thinking and feeling. “The kids love being on a horse,” says faculty instructor Tina Caswell. “They love riding and being in the barn. It’s motivating. This motivational activity provides the kids with an opportunity to practice their communication skills in a relaxed and enjoyable environment.”
Strides focuses on increasing the children’s social-pragmatic language skills and social communication interactions with others. During the horseback riding sessions, the children use the iPad with the speech-generating software as a means to communicate. Parents, too, learn to use the device so that they and their children can take what they learn from the barn and use it at home and during other social activities.
“The clients have made great strides!” says Caswell.