Therapy Program Helping Students

By: Stephen Bowers Email
By: Stephen Bowers Email

MSU Meridian social work professor, Dr. Marian Swindell, is in the early stages of a new project.

At first glance, it appears to be just children riding horses, but the kids are special needs students at Northeast Middle School. The project is to find out whether therapeutic horseback riding can help them.

"The therapeutic part of it, for children who are unsteady in how they walk, we work on balance," said Swindell. "We work on paying attention to the lesson such as standing up in the stirrup, leaning forward and balancing. They have to work on a lot at the same time."

So far, so good. Northeast Middle School teacher Toni Jackson has already seen some changes in the classroom.

"The kids seem to have a lot more confidence in every new skill that we try," she said. "Not just the confidence to ride the horses, but everything in the classroom."

The students are riding every Wednesday in October. Some are even able to ride on their own.

Ricky Thaggard, who gives lessons in horseback riding, donated his time and horses for these kids. He has even seen some improvements in the last three weeks.

"Just their confidence, and they're getting to ride," Thaggard said. "What you see, how far you see them come that fast, they feel like King Kong when they leave here."

Dr. Swindell is using this time to get used to the program, but it is the beginning stages of research she is doing to show the significance of this therapy to help these children get federal financial help for it.

"We're already hearing from the children in this program that in the classroom they're doing different types of things that they had never tried before," said Swindell.

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