Self-Management Intervention for Attention and Executive Functions Using Equine-Assisted Occupational Therapy among Children Aged 6-14 Diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Yafit Gilboa, Anne Helmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, is currently one of the most common diagnoses given to children. Children with ADHD have a unique cognitive profile that involves difficulties in executive functions (EFs) and in the self-management system of the brain, and are at higher risk for educational failure, social and emotional difficulties, and high risk behavior. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of self-management intervention for attention and executive functions using equine-assisted occupational therapy (STABLE-OT) for school-aged children with ADHD. Design: A pre-post design was used in the intervention. Setting/location: The study was conducted at two riding school stables is Israel. Subjects: Twenty-five 6-14-year-old children (3 girls, 22 boys, age: 7.8-12.3 years, M = 9.41 ± 1.75) diagnosed with ADHD participated in a therapeutic equestrian riding intervention. Intervention: The intervention included structured 45-min sessions for 12 weeks, while integrating child- and family-centered strategy acquisition and immediate feedback principles. Outcome measures: Their EF and occupational performance were evaluated pre- and post-intervention, using The Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) and the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM). Results: Results showed a significant improvement in EF, as reflected by statistically significant decreases in the Global Executive Composite (GEC; t = 2.801; p = 0.01), metacognitive index (t = 3.873; p = 0.001), working memory (t = 2.476; p = 0.021), monitor (t = 2.359; p = 0.027), and initiation (t = 3.204; p = 0.004) subscales of the BRIEF questionnaire. A statistically (p < 0.001) and clinically significant improvement was also found in the COPM performance and satisfaction scales. Conclusions: This study provides key preliminary evidence supporting the effectiveness of an individual equine-assisted OT intervention for children with ADHD. It constitutes an initial step toward clinical implementation of such therapeutic approaches, and is expected to spark further research in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-246
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Volume26
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • ADHD
  • cognitive approach
  • equine-assisted activities and therapies
  • executive functions
  • functional goals
  • occupational therapy

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