Date of Award

Spring 5-27-2023

Document Type

Doctor of Nursing Practice Final Manuscript

Degree Name

Doctor of Nursing Practice



First Advisor

Dr. Katherine Lais, DNP, PMHNP-BC


Purpose of Project: The purpose of this evidenced-based project is to gather data on how therapeutic horseback riding (THR) facilitates social engagement in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The project aims to provide alternative treatment options and disseminate information to providers on the importance of community partnerships.

Background: In 2020, it was estimated that 1 in 54 children had ASD, which is a 170% increase since 2000. Often, those diagnosed with ASD also experience co-occurring mental health diagnoses placing a large burden of care on our healthcare system. THR is a growing alternative treatment option and has been found to have significant benefits for individuals living with ASD.

Methods: This project was designed to examine the effects of a 16-week THR program on communication skills in individuals with ASD. Individuals living with ASD participated in the project at a local THR center. The Social Responsiveness Scale, Second Edition (SRS-2) was conducted to capture the baseline social skills score, and a post-intervention survey was conducted to capture any changes from the baseline.

Evaluation/Results: The SRS-2 scores, which included five subscales (communication, awareness, cognition, motivation, and repetitive behaviors) were used to evaluate the participants. The results showed a significant difference in the pre and post-intervention scores with marked improvement in social skills after the 16-week intervention.

Implications for Practice: Due to the significant results, THR should be carefully considered as an alternative treatment option for people with ASD, and community partnerships should be sought out by future providers.

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