Thai Elephant-assisted Therapy Project Research Studies
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Research Studies

Abstracts of Recent Studies

2008, Thai Elephant-assisted Therapy Program: The Feasibility in Assisting an Individual with Autism

Nuntanee Satiansukpong, Methisa Pongsaksri, Sasithon Sung-U, Soisuda Vittayakorn, Prasop Tipprasert, Mayuree Pedugsorn, Chitaya Phiraban, Daranee Sasat

Abstract: Occupational therapy has a history of using animals as part of the therapeutic medium. Few studies have investigated animal assisted therapy for individuals with autism whose profound impairments have been seen in social interaction, communication, and restricted interests. This study explored the feasibility of using the Thai elephant in a treatment program. The purposes of the study were to (1) create a new treatment program using a Thai elephant to assist the individual with autism; and (2) examine theeffect of the program and the feasibility of using it with individuals with autism. The new treatment program was created by a team of occupational therapists and elephant experts. The participants’ performance was examined before and after the treatment program. The results showed that the participants improved in adaptive behaviour, sensory processing, postural control, and balance after receiving three weeks of the programe. Parents also reported satisfaction with the program results.

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2009, The effect of Thai elephant-assisted therapy program on sensory processing function in persons with autism

Soisuda Vittayakorn, Nuntanee Satiansukpong, Sasithon Sung-U, Methisa Pongsaksri, Chitaya Phiraban, Daranee Sasat

Abstract: This study aimed to explore an effect of Thai elephant assisted therapy program on sensory processing function in persons with autism. Four autistic volunteers with age ranged between 9-18 years participated in the study. The short sensory checklist modified from Short Sensory Profile of Winney and the Clinical observation for sensory dysfunction, modified from Clinic Observation for Sensory dysfunction of Blanche were used to measure sensory processing function. The participants attended the Thai-elephant-assisted therapy program for 4 full day sessions (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) in 3 week duration. The activities in the program were composed of 8 activities designed by the research team. Data was analyzed using descriptive statistics. The results revealed that the average pre-test score of sensory processing measured by short sensory profile checklist of the participants was higher than the average post-test score. The qualitative analysis of sensory processing measured by clinical observation after the treatment program showed longer postural controls and better quality of postural controls than those before treatment program with accordance to the sensory processing function reported by their parents and therapists. In addition, their adaptive responses in daily life reported by their parents and their teachers were more appropriate. In conclusion, the Thai elephant-assisted therapy program had an effect on the increase of sensory processing function of autistic participants and could be used as an alternative treatment for autistic person. Bull Chiang Mai Assoc Med Sci 2009; 42: 57-70.

2010, The Results of Thai Elephant-assisted Therapy Program on Basic Sensory-Motor Performance and Adaptive Behavior in Individuals with Autism: a Pilot Study

Satiansukpong N, Vittayakorn S, Pongsaksri M, Sung-U S, Pedugsorn M, Phiraban C, Sasat D Department of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Associated Medical Sciences, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

Objectives: The objectives of this pilot study were to examine the result of the Thai Elephant -assisted Therapy Program on (1) basic sensory-motor performance and (2) adaptive behavior in individuals with Autism.

Study design: A before and after design

Setting: Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Lampang and Occupational Therapy Clinic, Chiang Mai University.

Subjects: Four autistic individuals aged between 11-18 years whose parents gave informed consent

Methods: Sensory-motor performance, including sensory processing, balance and postural control as well as the adaptive behavior before and after providing the treatment program was evaluated. The treatment program was provided under supervision of occupational therapists four days a week continuously for three weeks. Data were analyzed by using descriptive statistics.

Results: The basic sensory-motor performance was improved. The mean sensory processing was increased 11.45 percents. The total balance scores of participants were increased 69.16 percents, while the means of postural control in supine flexion and prone extension were increased 6.85 and 12.09 percents, respectively. All four had improvement in adaptive behavior.

Conclusion: Under supervision of occupational therapists, the Thai Elephant-assisted therapy program was able to improve the basic sensory-motor performance and adaptive behavior of the four autistic individuals.

2011, Developing of Thai Elephant-assisted Therapy Program on Social and Maladaptive Behaviors for Individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Regarding the need to develop intervention guidelines for Autistic Spectrum Disorders, and the concept of sustained conservation of Thai elephants, a research team has developed an alternative therapy program using the Animal-Assisted Therapy concept combined with the Sensory Integration Frame of Reference (SI) and The Model of Human Occupation (MOHO) in occupational therapy services for autistic clients, which included the Thai elephants as a part of the program.  The purpose of this study was to enhance social behaviors and reduce maladaptive behaviors of autistic children and adolescents. The participants in this study were 16 autistic children and adolescents aged 8-18 years. They were selected by purposive sampling in order to participate in 2 types of the elephant-assisted therapy programs: short-term (3 weeks) and long-term (6 weeks), 8 participants in each group.

The instruments to collect data included 1) The  scale of Independent Behavior-Revised (SIB-R) in subtests of social interaction and communication skills, and problem behaviors scale (Bruininks, Woodcock, Weatherman, & Hill, 1996) to evaluate social and maladaptive behaviors before and after the therapy program, 2) The record forms of social behaviors and maladaptive behaviors developed by the researcher team to evaluate those behaviors during receiving each program, and 3) The questionnaire of satisfaction in the therapy program.

The results showed that after receiving the therapy programs of the short-term, and of the long-term, social behaviors of both groups; in total scales, and each subscale: social interaction, language comprehension, and language expression, were significantly increased (p < .05). The changing scores of these behaviors were also significantly increased during providing each program (p < .01). Nevertheless, the maladaptive behaviors of participants; in total behavior, asocial maladaptive behavior, and externalized maladaptive behavior were significantly reduced after receiving the short-term therapy program only (p < .05), except in internalized maladaptive behavior (p > .05).  Furthermore, the comparison of the maladaptive behaviors of participants in each day was significantly reduced during receiving each therapy program (p < .01). 

In addition, the comparisons of the social behaviors and the maladaptive behaviors’ between the groups of participants receiving the short-term and the long-term therapy programs were not significantly different both after and during interventions (p > .05). From the questionnaire of satisfaction, it was found that most parents and teachers reported high level of satisfaction in the therapy program, and informed that their children and students showed the increases of other positive behaviors such as attention, emotion, and academic performance. 

It is recommended that to increase social behaviors of autistic clients, parents can choose either the short-term or long-term therapy program; however, to reduce maladaptive behaviors, they may consider the short-term one.

2011, Developing of Thai Elephant-assisted Therapy Program to improve Praxis for autistic spectrum disorder.

Abstract: This study is the continuous study of the research team in order to develop alternative treatment for individuals with autistic spectrum disorder: ASD. This study used Thai elephant, a national resource, as the means for therapeutic purpose. The theoretical concepts and research development of this study are based on the sensory integration frame of reference and the animal-assisted therapy. The objectives were to develop Thai Elephant-assisted Therapy Program which specifically improved praxis performance, to examine its results, and examine the results from deference clinical practice. There were 2 types of clinical service: Short and Long. The short clinical service was providing a full day treatment, 4 days a week for 3 week duration. The long clinical service was providing a full day treatment, 2 days a week for 6 week duration. Quasi-experimental one group pretest- posttest design was used. The participants were 20 volunteers with ASD. The participants were divided into two groups. Seven participants got a short c1inical service and the left got a long clinical service. Participants were examined with 3 evaluation tests: Short Sensory Profile, Clinical Observation for Sensory Integration-based Dyspraxia, the Dyspraxia Subtest of the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests: SIPT. The results from the Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test showed that the pretest and posttest of praxis performance were significantly different in both clinical service (Z = -2.371, p < .05; Z =-2.982, p < .05). The comparison of the results gotten from Short and Long clinical service by using the Mann Whitney U Test, the results showed no significant difference of praxis performance (Z=-1.396, p > .05). It was summarized that the new Thai Elephant-assisted Therapy program was specific to alleviate impairment in praxis performance of the individuals with ASD. The difference of clinical service patterns provided non-significant results in the praxis performance.

2014, Thai Elephant Assisted Therapy Program in Children with Down syndrome

Objectives: The Thai Elephant Assisted Therapy Program in individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorder showed effective results in postural control, balance, and adaptive behavior. The objectives of this study were to examine the effect of the Thai Elephant Assisted Therapy Program for children with Down’s syndrome (TETP-D) on balance, postural control, and visual motor integration in children with Down syndrome (DS).

Methods: Quasi – experimental design with the blind method was used. Sixteen children with DS were recruited by the purposive method from grades 1 – 6, Kawila Anukul School, Chiangmai Province, Thailand. Participants were voluntarily divided into 2 groups: control and experiment. The Balance subtest of the Bruininks – Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency 2, the Postural control record form, and the Beery VMI were measured 1 week before and after the TETP-D. Evaluation sessions were conducted at Kawila Anukul School, while the TETP-D treatment sessions were provided at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Lampang Province. Both groups received regular school activities, but the experimental group received added treatment, TETP-D twice a week for 2 months.

Results: The results showed no improvements of balance or postural control. In contrast, the result showed a significant difference of visual motor integration between groups (z = 13.5, p = .04).

Conclusion: Children with DS benefited from TETP-D as it improved visual motor integration ability. The TETP-D could improve balance and postural control if it was provided within a suitable frequency and duration.







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