Thai Elephant-assisted Therapy Project The Ground Breaking Study
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The Ground Breaking Study


To join in the UN’s global effort to increase awareness of autism with the inauguration of the World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), the Thai Elephant-Assisted Therapy Project (TETP) has released the successful findings from their pilot study. The study was conducted by the research team at the Department of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Associated Medical Sciences of Chiang Mai University, in the North of Thailand.

The study involved four participants who were assigned to four well-trained elephants at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. Each participant that volunteered for the study was an autistic client from the clinic of occupational therapy and ranged in age from 11-19 years. All were male. The participants were evaluated on function and competence using standardized tests and systematic observation, both before and after implementing the TETP. The elephant - assisted therapy program ran for a duration of three weeks, four days per week. During this time, the activities of the participants ranged from learning about the elephants and their habitat to actually riding and caring for the elephant (feeding, bathing, etc.). 

The results from the post-evaluation data are extremely promising since every participant showed improvement in the function of sensory processing, social skills, postural control and balance, performance of daily living activities, and adaptive behavior. Parents also reported that these functional skills carried over to other contexts, such as home and school.


The 2nd study sought to develop the results of the first with 8 participants, aged 9-18 years, for 6 weeks, on weekends only. Statistical analysis reconfirmed the results of the first. Moreover, the researchers found that participants were able to transfer enhanced social skill learning to interact with peer groups at school.

The 3rd study took the form of 2 sub-researches, designed to compare the effectiveness of a short-term (3 weeks, 4 days per week) and a long-term (6 weeks, 2 days per week) program, and to determine specific programs for 2 main parameters:
1.Praxis, i.e. motor planning; the ability to interact successfully with the physical environment; to plan, organize, and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar actions; and to do what one intends, wants, and needs to do in an efficient, satisfying manner. (20 participants)
2. Social and maladaptive behaviours. (16 participants)

It was found that both types of program significantly improved their social behaviours both during and after intervention. Moreover, their maladaptive behaviours were significantly reduced after receiving the short-term program. Comparison of maladaptive behaviours during intervention showed that they were significantly reduced each day, on both programs.


To read more about these studies and subsequent ones, visit our Research Studies in the menu above.

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