With my diagnosis of harboring “ticking time bombs” in my brain at the age of 22, technically, little had changed. And yet, somehow, everything had changed.
I was diagnosed with a vascular disorder in my brain a month after my 22nd birthday. After a Grand mal seizure which sent me to the emergency room, a scan was done of my brain, and the ER doctor pulled my father and me aside.
Living in the chaos that is New York City, breathing the cold, dry winter air, and tumbling around on the subway in rush hour with millions of others, it is often jarring to come to a sudden stop, look around, and realize where I am.
What am I doing? Where am I going in such a rush?
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is an alteration in brain functioning caused by an external force to the skull and brain. A concussion is the most common type of TBI, which is caused by trauma to the brain from an impact or sudden momentum change. The Division of Injury Response Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines concussion as “a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by traumatic biomechanical forces."
Concussions are caused by bumps, blows, or jolts to the head, which may come from direct hits to the head, gunshot wounds, violent shakings of the head, or forces from whiplash-type of injuries. The external force to the head leads to a “wave of energy that passes through the brain tissue to trigger neurodysfunction,” which is referred to as the “Neurometabolic Cascade of Concussion."
“Equine Therapy” is another name for “Therapeutic Horseback Riding.” Therapeutic Horseback Riding (THR) is defined as “using horseback riding treatment to improve posture, balance, and mobility while developing a therapeutic bond between the patient and horse." It is a subtype of “Animal Assisted Intervention” (AAI), which is the “inclusion of animals in therapeutic activities,” which includes “Animal Assisted Therapy” and “Animal Assisted Activities."
According to Bass et al. (2009), AAI has been shown to significantly benefit patients’ cognitive, psychological, and social domains, may also lower blood pressure and heart rate, and decrease anxiety. Almost a quarter of the parents with children with autism interviewed in an online survey responded that their children have participated in AAI, and over 60% reported perceived improvements in their children. The practice of using animals for therapy reportedly began in the late 18th century, when animals were brought in to mental institutions to increase social behaviors among the patients. In recent years, autism has become highlighted as a group that may benefit from Animal Assisted Interventions.