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Perceptions of Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies by Parents and Children With Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Lemke, Danielle MS; Rothwell, Erin PhD; Newcomb, Tara M. MS; Swoboda, Kathryn J. MD

doi: 10.1097/PEP.0000000000000027
Research Article

Purpose: To identify the physical and psychosocial effects of equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAATs) on children with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) from the perspective of the children and their parents.

Methods: The families of all eligible children with SMA, who reported participation in EAAT, from a Western metropolitan academic center were contacted and invited to participate. This study implemented qualitative, semistructured interviews of children with SMA and their parents.

Results: Three themes emerged from the qualitative content analysis: physical/psychosocial benefits; relationship development with the horses, instructors, and children; and barriers to continued EAAT engagement.

Conclusions: The data suggest that the overall EAAT experience was a source of enjoyment, self-confidence, and normalcy for the children with SMA. The results of this study provide preliminary support for the use of EAAT among children with SMA.

The data from this study suggest that equine-assisted activities and therapies are a source of enjoyment, self-confidence, and normalcy for children with SMA.

Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (Ms Lemke), Provo, Utah; University of Utah College of Nursing (Dr Rothwell), Salt Lake City, Utah; University of Utah School of Medicine Neurology Department (Ms Newcomb and Dr Swoboda), Salt Lake City, Utah.

Correspondence: Danielle Lemke, MS, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, 1st Floor, West Tower, 1034 North 500 West, Provo, UT 84604 (

Grant Support: This investigation was supported by NIH grant R01- HD054599 from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development to K.J.S., and by UL1RR025764 (University of Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences).

This work was completed while Danielle Lemke, MS, was obtaining her Master of Genetic Counseling degree at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. The University of Utah Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling, Department of Medical Genetics, School of Medicine provided financial support for this research project.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins and the Section on Pediatrics of the American Physical Therapy Association.