Kiddo Olive is an outgoing nine-year-old who loves chatting with old and new friends, tackling new challenges, and being on the move. Olive’s Mom, Jessica, noticed that while Olive outwardly seemed on par with her peers, she had some atypical tendencies that were beginning to affect her every day life.
“We started to recognize she did have a few sensory issues, where things would set her off or make her uncomfortable. She wasn’t a terrific sleeper, and was waking up quite a bit,” Jessica said. “There was something we couldn’t put our finger on. We knew we wanted to seek something out for her as opposed to letting her outgrow it, and TherAplay was a safe place to do that. We knew we’d never regret looking into it.”
Olive began occupational therapy at Children’s TherAplay in Fall 2020. From her first visit to Children’s TherAplay and being connected with her OT Miss Kaylin, Jessica instantly saw the good that could come from OT and hippotherapy.
“It was truly an unexpected surprise—there was a real comfort in being able to talk about the things we were noticing, and Kaylin really recognized the things we were picking up on,” Jessica said.
Olive and Miss Kaylin began working on lots of sensory integration, first in the old clinic, and now in the new big gym. The use of obstacle courses allowed Olive to move her body in interesting ways. Simultaneously, Miss Kaylin and Olive worked on interoception work, which involves feeling what’s inside your body.
“She’s very naturally intuitive, so that was a great starting point,” Kaylin said. “We work on different coping strategies and giving her the tools she needs when she’s placed in new environments.”
Where the magic really happened was when Olive began riding the horse during hippotherapy. Miss Kaylin describes Olive as an “absolute natural” on the horse, which allows her to push further and work harder. In day two, she was already in puppy dog position—something many kids take multiple sessions to master!
“Olive seemed to just be completely in tune with the horse’s body language,” Kaylin said. “In occupational therapy we talk about the eight types of occupations a person has. One of those is leisure. Olive absolutely found a new leisure occupation through her interest in horses.”
Olive has since become very interested in horses and horseback riding, causing Miss Kaylin to move their non-hippotherapy time into the barn. Olive now spends half her session working on her occupations in a barn setting, including grooming, feeding, and soon learning how to tack the horse. She even began taking horseback riding lessons, where Jessica instantly saw a shift in Olive’s body awareness.
“Olive has a lot to say—she loves to chat with adults! But in her riding lesson, she really practiced the art of listening to every instruction,” Jessica said. “In the presence of such a large animal, she had such a proper sense of boundaries and perspective. She seemed perfectly aware of her body, and showed an incredible amount of self control. She might not have found these skills without TherAplay.”
Kaylin has seen the fruits of OT sessions on the horse too, sharing that Olive has blossomed in her self-confidence, body awareness, becoming more honest with her emotions, and taking inventory of what’s going on around her.
“By pairing something that Olive is so interested in and so engaged in like the horse, it makes the other things we are working on—the sensory, body awareness, emotional work—much more relatable and much more engaging to her and allows her to better process and integrate the work on that end,” Kaylin said.
Even just in the three months she’s been in occupational therapy, Jessica sees how far Olive's progress might take her.
“She has this new inner calm, and this distinguished sense of pride,” Jessica said. “As a Mom, that’s so beautiful to watch. It’s just such a positive environment for her to be in.”