Friday, March 6, 2009

A number of children mostly with a Neurological developmental condition face the challenge of living within their own space, while the world outside doesn’t seem prepared to adjust according to their needs. Hence the challenge to help them face their environments only manages to add an atom of progressive development in their lives. Out of the many, one of most common and fast growing disability condition is Cerebral Palsy. This neurological condition is one of the most causative disabilities in the 21st century. Even more active in growing numbers in Africa and other under developed countries, due to poverty and illiteracy. Its has been estimated that 3 children out of 1000 present with this condition in the world, while in Africa the prevalence is higher with 5 children every 1000. With regard to Sudan, there are no official statistics yet. However, at Khartoum Cheshire Home (KCH) - which is one of the few organisations that caters for the needs of children with this condition – only in the last year the number of children registered with Cerebral Palsy has increased by 62%. This disability occurs due to poor prenatal, natal and post-natal care in pregnant mothers and infants. Cerebral Palsy is non-treatable, so once a child has contracted it teaching parents and children the management of the condition is the focus of attention.

Since the end of 2004, Miracles-Sudan has been providing its hippo therapy program completely free of charge in consideration of the poor socio-economic family background of most of these challenged children.
This year the hippo therapy sessions for KCH has no sponsor, so we are looking for kind donations from individuals in order to sustain this program.
The weekly cost of KCH two sessions, providing 40 (somtimes more) children with this much needed therapy is 400SGD. A small price to pay.

The initial stages of this project were developed during the last quarter of 2004, through the collaboration of Khartoum Cheshire Home (KCH) and Miracles-Sudan (MS) which is a charitable riding school located in Khartoum North (Bahri).
Since this programme started in December 2004, the number of children with special needs has grown rapidly from 3 to approx.100 who are regular and active members of the school.
Most of the children attending Hippo therapy sessions are referred from KCH and are physically challenged.
Other children attending sessions are from the Usratuna Vocational Training Center and two local orphanages.
Generally, these children are deprived of stimulation and interaction in their usual social surrounding, therefore Hippo therapy gives these children a unique opportunity to receive therapy and stimulations while riding horses and playing.

Hippotherapy uses the three dimensional movement of the horse’s hips, pelvis and shoulders at the walk to provide a movement challenge to the rider.
Sessions are under the direction of a physiotherapist specifically trained in this method of treatment. The rider sits astride a horse, led by an experienced horse person and accompanied by two side walkers. Perhaps one of the reasons for the success of hippotherapy is this team approach. The client makes no attempt to ride the horse but plays their part by actively responding to and interacting with the horse’s movement.

The motion of the horse transfers movement patterns to the rider’s lumbar (lower) spine and pelvic regions. This movement is very similar to the movement produced in ‘normal walking’; per minute a full sized adult horse at walk transfers 110 multidimensional swinging motions to the rider.
Hippotherapy is a unique treatment, which cannot be rivalled or reproduced by any other therapeutic method or piece of equipment. The horse becomes the tool that the therapist uses to improve the client’s neuromotor function. Once the client has accommodated to the movement of the horse, changes in gait, stride and pace, transitions to halt, corners and circles are introduced to further challenge the client and encourage alterations in balance and a need for reaction. Sitting backwards, side sitting or lying along the spine of a horse may also be used to achieve the desired outcome.

Why the horse?
The horse demands movement!
The movement stimulates postural responses, ie it encourages one to sit up.
Sitting astride a horse increases the base area of support.
The rhythm of the horse at walk, especially on straight lines, affects muscle tone and helps to reduce muscle spasm.
The warmth of the horse, higher than that of a human, is very relaxing and helps to increase blood supply and release tight tissues.

Psychological Impact:

Exercise in the fresh air of a farm, away from hospitals, doctors office, therapy rooms, and home, help to promote a sense of well-being. Confidence is gained by mastering a skill normally performed by able-bodied people. The ability to control an animal much larger and stronger than oneself is a great confidence builder.

Educational impact (very important, as most disabled children in Sudan do not attend any sort of formal education).
Remedial Reading.
Before one can read, it is necessary to recognize the difference in shapes, sizes, and even colors. These can be taught more easily on horseback, as part of games and activities. There is less resistance to learning when it is part of a riding lesson. Through the use of signs placed around the arena, letters can be taught, and reading of individual words by word recognition can also be learned. Games involving signs for "exit", "danger", "stop" etc., help to teach important life skills involving reading.
Remedial Math.
Counting is learned by counting the horse's footsteps, objects around the arena, or even the horse's ears and legs. Number concepts are gained as the rider compares the number of legs on a horse to the number of his own legs. Addition and subtraction are taught through games involving throwing numbered foam dice and adding or subtracting the numbers. Because the concepts are taught through games, resistance to learning is decreased.