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Autistic children thrive at Cassidy's Cause

BY BECCA SCHIMMEL rschimmel@paducahsun.com

Trotting, walking, shooting hoops and picking up stuffed animals are some of the activities at Cassidy's Cause Therapeutic Riding Academy on Clinton Road in McCracken County.

Kristal Wall stood in the observation room watching her daughter, Asialyn, eye the basketball goal, her daughter's favorite part of the lesson. Asialyn, 6, speaks more and has better behavior and more focus than she did before she began riding, Wall said.

"She doesn't see it as therapy, she sees it as playtime," Wall said. "She comes once a week for an hour but she would come every day if you let her."

Cassidy's Cause seeks to help individuals with disabilities using therapeutic, recreational and educational activities on a horse. Director Dana Triplett started the program in 2013 because she was inspired by her own daughter, Cassidy, and her experiences with therapeutic riding.

Triplett said autistic children especially benefit from therapeutic horseback riding. Asialyn has autism and has been riding for two years.

"Asialyn has only been at this program for six weeks, and she went from saying two words to full sentences. Since she has to verbalize here, she has to do it at home," Wall said. "She actually listens and focuses now."

Triplett said those who attend Cassidy's Cause regularly see improvement with speech, mobility, confidence and behavior.

"We had a parent that wrote a letter thanking us for treating her daughter like she was normal," Triplett said.

The facility is open to children and adults and is wheelchair friendly. An electric lift can help individuals out of a wheelchair and place them directly onto a horse.

There are nine horses of several different breeds and three miniature horses at the facility. Miniature horses, Triplett said, are great for the riders who are intimidated by the size of the larger horses.

Two volunteers are walking on each side of the horse helping the rider to feel secure, another leads the horse, and the instructor is also nearby.

Currently, there are 100 volunteers who help care for the horses and maintain the facility.

While Cassidy's Cause relies primarily on volunteers, all instructors have to go through training. Each is required to pass an online test, a riding test, and is supervised by another instructor during their first riding lessons.

Each lesson is $35 an hour. Lessons are given at 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesdays, at 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays, and at 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Thursdays. The facility is closed in December.

To learn more about Cassidy's Cause, visit www.cassidyscause.org or call 270-554-4040.

Contact Becca Schimmel, a Paducah Sun staff writer at 270-575-8652.

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