Equine Assisted Learning is an experiential learning approach that promotes the development of life skills for educational, professional and personal goals through equine-assisted activities.
Equitots Lanarkshire CIC use this approach to assist children who require an alternative approach to learning to improve their communication and confidence whilst building empathy, relationship and resilience skills through interaction and learning from ponies.
We offer experiential learning and playdate sessions with a qualified British Horse Society Assistant Instructor who is also a Certified Horseboy Basic Practitioner, Certified Equitots Facilitator and Qualified Horse Powered Reading Specialist. Through the sessions children are encouraged to take part in horse based outdoor learning activities that meet their individual development needs, the areas covered include:
- Sensory Work
- Back-riding (where applicable)
- Perspective taking and rule based games
- Basic Academics and Reading
This neuro cognitive approach is specifically designed to help children with communication and learning. Ponies provide a natural opportunity to overcome fear and develop confidence, the experience gained whilst attending sessions gives children an insight into how to deal with other intimidating and challenging life situations.
Equitots Lanarkshire CIC provides children and famimlies with space to explore, be themselves and build relationships on an equal footing. The expected outcomes from children taking part in sessions are:
- Improved sensory, social and emotional skills
- Improved confidence and communication skills
- Improved learning, health and wellbeing
- Ability to self-correct and regulate
- Develop resilience
Ponies can carry children into the exterior world and fill them with the feel good hormone created by movement, ‘oxytocin’ which has a calming influence on the nervous system and allows the brain to engage.
How Equitots Lanarkshire Community Interest Company can help children with additional support needs and alternative approches to learning?
1. Social Communication:
Many children have little grasp of non-verbal communications, e.g. difficulty using or understanding tone of voice, body language or facial expressions along with a poor understanding of verbal communications such as use of humour and literal meanings of words. Speech may be limited, and so sign language or visual aids and symbols is often a more effective way of communication. Ponies, due to their size and very clear communication of their moods are ideal partners to help children learn and develop social communication skills. Some children use repetition of words, but this doesn’t mean that they have poor language skills or a lack of understanding, they might just need a bit more time to process information and ponies provide a non-judgemental listener.
2. Social Interaction:
Children may have a lack of social skills or display inappropriate behaviour, e.g. they may stand too close to another person, or they may always tell the truth when it’s not always appropriate. They may appear distant or uninterested in what’s going on around them and would prefer to be in their own company than with others. They may have difficulty understanding emotions and could appear insensitive to others’ feelings. There may be difficulties in making and maintaining relationships/ friendships and they may not be sure how to go about doing this. Ponies can help children develop positive, trusting relationships where positive behaviors can be encouraged and developed.
3. Social Imagination:
For some children play is often solitary and repetitive. Some children may enjoy imaginative play but they prefer to act out the same thing each time, and may not like another child trying to change things. They may not understand the concept of danger and could cause themselves harm. They may have a love of routines and would not cope well in new or unfamiliar settings, or if something in a setting is changed. It is important to warn the child in advance and prepare them fully for any changes they are likely to experience. Equitots Lanarkshire Community Interest Company aims to provide a safe, secure ‘Yes’ environment for children who use our services. By developing a natural ‘Yes’ environment and providing opportunity to use imagination with the assistance of ponies children are able to develop play skills that can be transferred to their every day lives.
Equitots Lanarkshire Community Interest Company aims to provide structured but child led sessions using the natural environment and visual symbols as a way of informing the child what activities are available. A visual timer can inform the child how long they will be participating in a particular activity for. Many of the activities use natural materials to encourage building, play and art e.g. building dens, comparing leaves and flowers etc.
Children can often struggle with overload of information and making choices. Equitots Lanarkshire Community Interest Company provides an opportunity for children to discover and learn in a natural environment where there is choice on their terms with a view to developing self advocacy.
Equitots Lanarkshire Community Interest Company will ensure that instructions and rules are consistent, i.e. follow through anything that is said. These are given in simple, precise, concrete language all the time checking that the child understands what has been said. Children are given time to respond to instructions or questions as they may need a bit longer to absorb and process the information provided. Using ponies to help children understand rules and instructions is beneficial due to their size and the time they can take to respond to a request. Children don’t feel under pressure and instructions and requests are made via the pony.
7. Communication is key:
We cannot assume that verbal language has been understood, the outdoor natural environment is an asset and can be complimented with the use of natural materials, photos, symbols and drawings to complement verbal language where possible. Each child will have their own communication skills and preparation by the equine facilitator prior to sessions is essential to understand each child’s communication methods.
8. Word use:
It is essential that we think about the words that we use and what they mean to the child. For example, some children don’t respond well to the word ‘no’. The child may associate it with being unable to do something that they really want to do. However, other children might not like the actual word or how it sounds, and so it’s important to think of a substitute word or show them a picture/ symbol instead. Equitots Lanarkshire Community Interest Company aims to create a ‘Yes’ natural environment to engage children and help them develop every day life skills.
9. Quiet time/ space:
Equitots Lanarkshire Community Interest Company understand that children may not wish to take part in all activities available. It is important to give them physical and personal space. The Learning Hut will provide a quiet safe space where the child can relax and calm down should they become stressed.
10. Be positive:
Equitots Lanarkshire Community Interest Company ensures every child is given positive comments and will be encouraged by us following their lead. Their interests and obsessions will provide us with a key to communication.
Where a child has a special interest, we will try to use it as a way of engaging with them, e.g. if the child likes rubbish, have a recycling project; if they like shiny objects, incorporate this into a sensory area of use shiny materials.