- The Bakas Equestrian Center staff can continue to serve a dwindling number of autistic children and teens and ignore the fact that there are many more autistic children that require social interaction and motor skill improvements outside of their surrounding environments. Both improvements have been researched and verified with autistic children that have participated in Creative Art Therapy.
- Hillsborough County Commissioners should do their own research and bring in experts to understand and recognize that autistic children deserve equal opportunities for specialized programs just as other handicapped children. They also need to recognize the fact that a new Creative Art Therapy Program will enable autistic children and teens to have a chance at not just existing but flourishing in life.
- Hillsborough County Equestrian Center adopt Creative Art Therapy Pilot Program that gives autistic children and teens the opportunity to be involved in the natural setting of the center by participation in related art activities. The pilot program will be instrumental in providing positive quantitative and qualitative data for the implementation of the combined equestrian and Creative Art Therapy Program.
I recommend that Horses for the Handicapped, Inc. and Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation staff adopt the new Creative Art Therapy Program. To do so, the program must be in compliance with applicable federal and state regulatory standards and expectations, as defined by
- The Americans with Disabilities Act, Title I and Title II
- the Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation Department, Chapter 38, Article II which defines Public Conduct in Parks and Recreational Facilities
- the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services,
- the Internal Revenue Service Exempt Organizations Reporting Changes Form 990
- Title XLV, Chapter 828 of the Florida Statutes: Animals: Cruelty, Sales, and Animal Enterprise Protection, and
- Special Programs for Exceptional Student Education.
For Hillsborough County to consider the adoption of the Creative Art Therapy Program, certain pre-requisites must also be met. These include 1) Submission of a comprehensive and to the point business plan that will define how the non-profit will accomplish their goals 2) availability of county space 3) a county department that will back the non-profit and support its mission, and 4) the detailed general benefit to the occupants of Hillsborough County (Hillsborough County Florida, n.d.). In addition, if the Creative Art Therapy Program or any new program is approved for implementation, and the new program requires a new structure, regardless of whether it is a tent or solid structure, either at the onset of a new program or during any phase of an older program, a Building Permit Application must be filled out and submitted to Hillsborough County. (Hillsborough County Florida, n.d.). For the Art Therapy Program, there are plenty of areas available on the property at Whisper Lake Trail to hold classes (West, J., personal communication, February 16, 2019).
Additional regulatory standards include oversight of Creative Art Therapists and combined therapeutic equestrian activities by The American Art Therapy Association and Accreditation Council for Art Therapy Education.
By adopting a new Creative Art Therapy Program, Hillsborough County, Florida will have the opportunity to reap the benefits of increased revenue by serving more autistic children and teens and will have the opportunity to receive recognition for qualitative improvements in the lives of autistic children and teens. More importantly, the new combined equestrian and Creative Art Therapy Program will be known as the trendsetter for new and innovative experiences in the State of Florida, where combining creative art with therapeutic equestrian activities will give autistic children and teens an experience that they will carry all their lifetimes.
My survey questions for the feasibility of combining Creative Art Therapy with equestrian activities were submitted to participants using the St Petersburg College Survey Builder tool. I used both dichotomous, or open-ended questions, and rating scales from 1-5. In addition, some of my surveys were emailed outside of the Survey Builder tool via my college email account.
There is a total of ten survey questions: 1) Do you or a member of your family, or someone you know have autism? 2) Are you a St Petersburg College Student? 3) If you are a St. Petersburg College Student, are you registered with Accessibility Services? 4) Do you know someone who has autism and that has participated in horseback riding activities now, or in the past? 5) Do you currently provide care or therapeutic services to children and/or teens that have autism? 6) Have you, or someone you know been introduced to, or have participated in Creative Art Therapy either academically, clinically, or leisurely? 7) On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 the most unlikely and 5 the most likely, do you believe that various creative art activities can personally improve your quality of life? 8) On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the most unlikely, and 5 being the most likely, do you believe that Creative Art Therapy has the potential to improve, to a noticeable degree, both communication and motor skills of children and teens diagnosed with autism? 9) If you have a child or teen with autism that takes part in therapeutic horseback riding activities, do you believe that a free Creative Art Therapy Program is something you would like your child to participate in, and 10) On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the most unlikely and 5 the most likely, how likely are you to donate your time, money, or materials to the addition of a Creative Art Therapy Program to enhance horseback riding activities for children and teens with autism?
Data were gathered from multiple sources. It is important to note here that there were no college email survey responses received outside of Bakas Horses for the Handicapped’s staff, parents, and guardians. All other survey responses came via the St. Petersburg College Survey Builder tool.
All known survey sources include: 1) Parents and guardians of autistic children who participated in therapeutic riding activities at the Bakas Equestrian Center 2) the non-profit entity, Horses for the Handicapped, Inc., and Hillsborough County staff at the Bakas Equestrian Center 3) Jenna at Quantum Leap Farm 4) St Petersburg College students in the Public Policy and Administration Program 5) Kelli Mitchell with Accessibility Services at St Petersburg College in Seminole 6) Sara Hofman, a former St. Petersburg College Professor who taught Abnormal Psychology 7) Kelly at RVR Horse Rescue 6) Mary Uruquart at Horses for the Handicapped in Seminole, 8) and President and founder of TherHappy Therapy Services Andrea Clark and her staff
Surveys responses were received via the Survey Builder tool and emailed surveys. The quantitative data from the Survey Builder tool involved 48 views with 30 participating responses for determining the feasibility study of combining Creative Art Therapy with equestrian-related activities. The survey began on February 13th and ended on February 23, 2019. Eighteen respondents completed the survey with all questions answered; nine respondents answered nine out of ten questions; two respondents answered eight out of ten questions, and one respondent answered seven out of ten questions.
What surprised me the most was the question that asked, “Do you, a member of your family, or someone you know have autism? An astounding 56.67% of those surveyed via the Survey Builder tool answered in the affirmative. That is a little over half of those surveyed. More importantly and encouraging data involve the 62% of respondents who believe that Creative Art can personally improve their quality of life, with 70.83% believe that participating in creative art has the potential to improve communication and motor skills of autistic children and teens.
However, the Survey Builder respondent answers present several major flaws with the data proving that Creative Art Therapy is feasible when combined with Animal Assisted Intervention. For example, 80% of respondents do not know someone with autism that has participated in horseback riding activities, 90% of respondents do not provide care or therapeutic services to children with Autism, and 76.67% of respondents have not been introduced to, or participated in, Creative Art Therapy either academically, clinically, or leisurely.
The good news is that my feasibility study is focused on the non-profit entity, Bakas Horses for the Handicapped, Inc. General Manager Jennifer West went above and beyond what I expected and handed out my surveys to her therapy staff, parents and guardians of therapeutic riding participants, and a park ranger. The reason for this is that she forgot about the presentation she agreed to let me give at the ranch, despite numerous reminders (see emails). The following responses showed great promise for the feasibility of providing a Creative Art Therapy Program with equestrian-related activities for autistic children and teens at Bakas Horses for the Handicapped, Inc.
I received a total of 17 returned surveys via email from General Manager Jennifer West at Bakas Horses for the Handicapped, Inc. Here are the survey respondents by title 1) General Manager 2) Senior Recreational Therapist 3) two Recreational Therapists 4) one Recreational Therapy Assistant 5) one Park Ranger 6) seven guardians of disabled riders 7) one Special Education Teacher and parent of a rider, and 8) three unidentified respondents. All 17 surveys were completed.
Out of the 17 received surveys, only question #6 received the most mixed answers. The question is: “Have you or someone you know been introduced to, or have participated in, Creative Art Therapy, either academically, clinically, or leisurely?” Seven ”yes” and ten “no” answers were provided. The survey questions with the most affirmative responses for the implementation of the new program, were questions 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9. Question #4 asks, “Do you know someone who has autism and that has participated in horseback riding activities now, or in the past?” Responses: Fourteen “yes” answers and one “no” answer. Question #5 asks, “Do you currently provide care or therapeutic services to children and/or teens that have autism?” Responses: Thirteen “yes” answers and four “no” answers. Question #7 asks, “On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 the most unlikely and 5 the most likely, do you believe that various creative art activities can personally improve your quality of life?” Responses: Sixteen #5 scaled responses and one #1 scaled response. Question #8 asks, “On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the most unlikely, and 5 being the most likely, do you believe that Creative Art Therapy has the potential to improve, to a noticeable degree, both communication and motor skills of children and teens diagnosed with autism?” Responses: Fourteen #5 scaled responses, one #3 scaled response, and one not applicable scaled response. Finally, question #9 asks, “If you have a child or teen with autism that takes part in therapeutic horseback riding activities, do you believe that a free