A couple of years ago, Variety Kid Maisy attended a birthday party at a ranch. There, she not only got to ride a horse for the first time, but she formed a connection with one of the horses. She fed him and petted him, laughing, smiling, and communicating in her own unique way.
You see, Maisy, who has been diagnosed with autism, is nonverbal and has a sensory processing disorder. But being with the horses made her face light up in a new way.
“We had hardly seen her interact with anybody – person or animal – like that before,” said Maisy’s parents, Mark and Jill.
And they decided that day that Maisy would benefit from hippotherapy.
The cost of hippotherapy sessions can add up, however. Mark and Jill shared that they knew they wouldn’t be able to provide regular sessions on their own. But, with the help of Variety’s TherHappy Kids program, Maisy can attend consistently throughout the year.
These consistent therapy sessions have made a big difference for Maisy. In one therapy session, Maisy not only rides her horse, but she also plays with bubbles, completes several challenges and exercises, and works on giving cues. Instead of using verbal cues, however, the therapists teach Maisy to use physical gestures to give instructions to the horse.
“She has picked up on (the gestures) pretty well and we hope she can expand those skills into her everyday life,” Mark said.
Riding regularly has also helped improve Maisy’s posture and core strength. When she first started, Maisy could only ride for about 20 to 30 minutes. Now, she rides for an hour at a time!
Maisy’s sessions also provide critical sensory input.
“Due to her sensory processing disorder, Maisy typically does a lot of stimming throughout the day. After only an hour of riding, she gets enough sensory input that helps to drastically reduce the amount of stimming she does for the following week,” Mark and Jill said.
But, perhaps most importantly, riding helps Maisy emotionally.
Her parents explained, “Maisy is always in a better mood after a hippotherapy session. We have had days where she has had a terrible morning and cries up until she rides, but her day immediately gets better once a session starts.”
None of this would be possible without our generous supporters, for whom Mark and Jill had an important message.
“A huge thank you to all of the donors for supporting a program like this,” they said. “It has had such a positive effect on Maisy because it makes occupational and speech therapy enjoyable for her.”