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HAT for Special Needs

My child has Autism. Why are they having so many problems at school and home?

Autism is a disorder that effects how the brain processes the world. There are various levels of autism from very severe to mildly impairing which is why they call Autism a “spectrum disorder”. There are children with very severe Autism that are unable to speak, follow directions, and seem to be completely in their own world. While a child with mildly impairing Autism (high functioning) may do really well with their schoolwork and can speak very well, but have trouble maintaining friendships. The variation of Autism symptoms is what makes autism so difficult to treat. This variation also makes it really difficult for teachers at school or other parents to understand why your child is having behaviors when other children do not. School and other social situations require a very specific set of behaviors of your children. They should be quiet, patient, sit still, not touch things, and do what is asked of them immediately after they are asked. This is a high bar to meet for a typical child let alone a child on the Autism spectrum. Because children with autism usually have no other signs of physical disability, people out in public often think your child is “spoiled” or just needs a good “spanking” to get their behaviors under control. You know this isn’t true and so do the providers at Paradise Ranch.

I really want to try Horse Assisted Therapy (HAT), but is it safe?

Paradise Ranch has an extensive training program for HAT providers and horses. Paradise Ranch horses are selected based on their personality, attitude, and desire to work with children. Our horse handlers and providers spend years studying horse behavior and natural training techniques. Our providers understand how to read the horse’s behaviors and know what the horse is saying to the people around the horse. Also, providers take cues from your child’s body language and verbal tones to help your child understand what the horse is “hearing” from tone and body position of your child. The horses are trained to never kick, bite, or show any aggression towards humans. This makes our program one of the safest and most effective horse programs. Your children can safely explore the world of horses and physical attributes of the horse such as fluffy hair, musty smell, watery eyes, warm breath, and hard feet in a controlled way with the help of a provider that understands how your child learns about the world around them.

How does HAT help my child with Autism?

HAT uses the relationship between horses and your child to form a new way of regulating emotions and behaviors for your child. HAT providers place your child in various activities and therapeutic scenarios with their horse partner to help your child learn new empathetic patterns and understanding relationships. Providers start by building rapport with your child during the first few sessions. New environments, changes in routine, new people and new expectations all create anxiety in our ASD children. Rapport building sessions are low expectation sessions where providers basically keep your child safe, while they learn the boundaries, rules, limits, and expectations of this new place. Providers begin the basics of the routine and build on the routine each session to teach your child new skills and language. With each new session building on the last, your child knows what to expect each session and begins to learn how to cope with change in a very controlled way. Additionally, providers encourage behaviors from your child that are also expected in public settings. Sitting still, being patient, waiting their turn, being quiet, not touching things, and focusing on a task are some examples of these public expectations. Horses give very honest feedback to your child, so if your child is showing aggressive body language and verbal tones, the horse will react with fear and recoil. If your child is shy and meek, the horse will react with leadership and encourage your child to be more willing and open. The job of the horse is to help your child learn the give and take of a productive healthy relationship , how to be empathetic to another being’s feelings, be honest and open, experience vulnerability, overcome anxiety and instill self-confidence and self-esteem.

How long does the HAT process take?

Every ASD child is different in their needs, experiences, and life challenges. HAT providers take this into consideration when developing the treatment plan for your child and assess progress every 90 days. Some children benefit from weekly sessions while children that have been in the program for several months see continued success through bi-weekly or once a month sessions. Generally, sessions start frequently and are more intense and as your child improves in behavior and attitude, the intensity and frequency slows down. We encourage you to take the program one day at a time and before you know it, your child will be start showing amazing progress in their behaviors and relationships.

Does Paradise Ranch take insurance?

Paradise Ranch does currently take fee for service (FFS) Medicaid for medically necessary treatment. This includes psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR) and family therapy. The process for this treatment is a little different from HAT and requires annual assessments and a mental health diagnosis. Talk to your in-take provider if you think this is an option for your family.

There are a number of other programs available that help provide funding for HAT. We work closely with Olive Crest, Desert Regional Center, and Easter Seals. If you need more information or assistance with applications for these programs, talk to your in-take provider.

How do I start HAT sessions?

Call 702-515-7117 to schedule your evaluation appointment. During this appointment you will fill out all the necessary paperwork and meet your in-take provider. Your provider will give you a full tour of the facility, introduce you to all the horses, and answer any questions you have about the HAT program. Treatment is a team effort, so siblings, service providers, and other family members are welcome at the appointment and are invited to provide feedback during the evaluation appointment. This appointment is when we establish general goals and objectives for your child. Make sure to wear closed toed shoes and pants. No sandals, flip-flops, crocs, etc.

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