As a parent, I understand how your heart breaks a little every time you drop your child off at an appointment for regular therapy they might find difficult or boring. “You have to do this honey”, is what we say as we hand over our deflated and defeated kid. It’s not necessarily that the therapist isn’t fun or competent, it’s that the actual therapy can be challenging stuff or repetitive in nature.
In such circumstances, what we can see happening with our children is a certain level of disengagement. Truthfully, this can become counter-productive and time-consuming. Sometimes we have no choice but to continue on, but in some situations, we do have a choice! Especially when it comes to working on social-emotional skills. There are many different approaches (depending on your child’s profile), and one size does not fit all!
Just like adults, children commit to working on themselves when what they are doing is meaningful and manages to reach them on a soul level. Children particularly thrive when they are immersed in nature and when they engage in their true occupation of play. When it comes to playing, animals are often a favourite theme, and live ones are even better! Here at the ranch, we have horses and dogs. We even get visits from jackrabbits, foxes, moose, deer, coyotes, falcons, and owls! The magic truly surrounds the child!
Children also blossom when they feel they are genuinely liked or cared for by the key adults in their lives (including those who are working with them). This has been well-researched. Kids just know, and if your child is anything like mine, that can make all the difference in participation and cooperation. The approach I use in my equine-assisted social-emotional therapy is soulful and strongly relationship-based. It is also rooted in the foundational principle that children require a sense of control over their own process and well-being for true change to occur.
Another important fact to consider is that children process their experiences through their sensory systems. Touch in particular is instrumental in the younger years for solidifying social-emotional learning. Even children with tactile sensitivities need safe enjoyable physical contact, and horses can provide that appropriate emotional intimacy, and more importantly, on your child’s terms. When the experience is successful and pleasant, the brain assigns a positive memory to the event, and this sets the stage for positive learning to occur! That’s when I step in to help.
So if your child has been shying away from working on certain social-emotional skills, putting up a fuss, or even blatantly refusing to participate, maybe try my equine-assisted social-emotional therapy, which I will be adding to my practice officially as of Spring 2020! It is not even up on my website, and I have already started booking!
What is equine-assisted social-emotional skills strengthening (EASESS) for children?
EASESS is a play-based horse-assisted intervention developed by Marianne Disipio, which consists of working on strengthening social-emotional skills through semi-structured activities with horses on the ground (there is no riding involved).
Who can benefit?
This intervention is appropriate for children aged 8 years and up who can benefit from working on the following:
- The ability to relate emotionally to others
- Increasing self-awareness and managing intense emotions
- Understanding social-boundaries
- Improving social flexibility
- Learning self-control and building confidence
- Developing assertive communication
- Building confidence and self-esteem
EASESS is most helpful for children who are sensitive and/or “spirited” souls, enjoy being outside, love animals, and are creative.
What does a session look like?
A 30-45 meet and greet play session (or social visit-depending on age) is initially recommended (and included in the service) to help the child establish a certain level of comfort before beginning the intervention. This introduction can occur in the child’s home or at the ranch (or both).
A regular session is approximately 1 hour in length. It is divided between time spent with the horses and time spent one on one exploring concepts and addressing goals. All of this is done through fun and meaningful ways that don’t feel like therapy to your child at all!
Who knows…you might just see your child have a newfound sense of willingness to step out of their comfort zone, face some fears, and engage in some serious social-emotional self-improvement! Of course, it helps to tell them that there are 3 soft and cuddly horses to love at Marianne’s place.
For more information on equine-assisted social-emotional therapy for children, and to find out if it would be a good fit for your child, call 403-828-0242 or email at email@example.com