Disabled children learning to walk and be less dependent

Mon, 16 April 2012

  • ‘A comment from the therapists’ assistant: “These little children feel like giants when they are on the horses. Every day we again realize how special and important these children feel because they are included in our programme. They refer to the horses as “our horses” and the farm as “our farm”. The programme creates a sense of pride and belonging for them. It is absolutely priceless the sense of belonging and importance these children have. Needless to say or explain what this means to them as future adults.”

REPORT 1: AMADO - Animal assisted therapy for disabled children

AMADO provides Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT), an experiential form of therapy using horses for physically and/or mentally disabled children in Paarl, in the Western Cape. With SASIX investor funding, AMADO is improving the motor skills, emotional development and self-confidence of 16 children from Ligstraal School, a special needs school.

This project runs over 12 months. This report covers the period from October 2011 to April 2012.

The selected children will take part in a 12-month therapy programme, which consists of weekly sessions including both group and individual therapy. Progress made during the programme will be assessed in conjunction with the school´s occupational therapist (OT), nurse and psychologist.

Once out of school, AMADO supports children in finding a job or improving their employability.

Activities and Outcomes

For the last eight months, the 16 children have been receiving weekly therapy sessions with horses and assisted by a qualified EAT therapist. Therapy consists of group and individual sessions.

The results from the assessments conducted so far are very positive. Children have all shown signs of advanced motor skills, positive emotional development and self-confidence. As a result, children are now more independent, which boosts their confidence and releases some pressure from their parents and/or care givers.

Case study: Child A, 12 years of age. Diagnosis: Spastic quadriplegic, severely mentally handicap

Child A used to be wheelchair bound, but is now fully mobile. He does not fall down as much and his movements are starting to be more co-ordinated. He is able to dress and undress himself with minimal assistance. He is also starting to brush his teeth and wash his face on his own. He is starting using utensils independently. Although he may still struggle a lot he does not give up until he has mastered them.

His vocabulary has improved to the extent that he is able to communicate his needs. His language usage is now more appropriate and he is able to listen to and follow simple instructions.

In 2011, AMADO supported the only school leaver from the programme. She was enrolled at a childcare training course provided by an NPO in Wellington.


The total cost of this project was R 171 220, of which SASIX managed to raise R80 897. All funds have been paid out.

DescriptionTotal Budget (as per budget approved by SASIX)Total Expenditure to date
Salaries and Wages138 93430 000
Contributions (med aid, pension fund)1 389694.50
EAT therapist further training (travel costs)10 1141 414.47
Subsistence and travel expenses3 750-
Telephone, postage and PO Box rental10 6831 414.47
Printing and stationery1 715857.46
Insurance (buildings, equipment)4 6352 317.60
Sub-total171 22036 698.50
TOTAL80 897

Expenditure is in line with the initial budget. Expenses for further training were planned for the second half of the project.


During the last six months, funding has been one of AMADO’s biggest challenges. The organisation has tried different approaches, including fund-raising events and they have learned valuable lessons. While events are very important for making people aware of AMADO, there is a cost involved, which is often not amortised. They have therefore decided to concentrate on trying to obtain state funding as well as always having corporate funding proposals on executives’ desks.

From an operational point of view, AMADO employed an administrative assistant, which has freed up the therapist to dedicate most of her time to working with the children.

Monitoring and evaluation

Together with the occupational therapist from Ligstraal School, AMADO does basic assessments on each child before they enter the program. They get tested on gross and fine motor co-ordination, self-care, speech & language and perceptual ability. A development plan is then compiled for every child including limitations, goals and achievement/challenge.

Every term, AMADO assesses the progress of each child and updates their development plan with feedback from the teachers, occupational therapist, EAT therapist as well as the parents/careers.


AMADO’s EAT programme is proving to have a fantastic impact on disabled children. It helps improve their physical abilities, which is making them more independent and in that way, facilitating family live. But more importantly, EAT therapy gives them a sense of confidence in themselves that they might have never had before. This is the building block for any person to succeed in life, no matter what challenges one encounters.

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