The North Fork Vision program is pleased to have a science project titled, "A Study of the Speech and Riding Connection" qualify for the state competition in Fort Collins to be held April 5, 6 and 7. The project was selected for the regional competition at the North Fork Vision Science Fair on Feb. 3, and was one of nine senior projects selected at the Western Regional Science Fair Competition, held at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.
Two projects from Hotchkiss High School also will be in the state competition.
When North Fork Vision high school students Katelan Sinski and Savannah Russell decided to study the benefits of horseback riding last summer, they had no idea how they would start. The young researchers wanted to study the benefits of horsemanship and therapeutic riding for their 17-year-old classmate David Burns, who has Down syndrome. Specifically, the researchers wanted to help the student advance in his speech skills, as these skills were identified by Delta County School's Special Services staff as a top priority for his learning and growth.
With the help of horseback riding instructor Helen Dennison of Paonia, the team conducted an extensive research and exploration stage which included traveling to Durango to visit a theraputic riding center. The researchers found ample anecdotal evidence that horseback riding benefits disabled people; however, they found no research-based evidence to help towards their goal of measuring and collecting data to prove or disprove their hypothesis, which states, "Improvement in a Down syndrome child's speech can be achieved with the help of therapeutic riding."
A breakthrough came in December when the research team recruited speech and language specialist Sky Baldwin of Montrose, also certified in equinotherapy, to join the project team as a qualified scientist, according to International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) rules. Baldwin helped the team develop a method based on Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) therapy. The procedure developed by the team included measuring speech volume in decibels for 10 spoken phrases before and after a horseback ride. With very little time to conduct their research, the team set quickly to work and collected five repetitions of data, which will be displayed on their board in Fort Collins in April.
The results demonstrate a 2.8 dB increase in speech volume on average after a horseback ride, and an upward trend overall.
Katelan Sinksi commented, "I've heard a lot of people say that David's speech is becoming clearer."
The positive results have the students motivated to continue the project, collect more data and information, and compete again in 2013.
Publicly funded schools often cannot fund therapy for disabled students unless it is research based. It is the hope of the research team that their project will not only benefit David directly, but also spawn interest in this therapy for other special needs students in Delta County and beyond.
The project will be on display at Heritage Hall in Hotchkiss on the evening of May 3, as part of the North Fork Vision Home and Community Program learner showcase. Support for this project at Vision is part of a two-year strategic effort to promote the learning and growth of students through science.blog comments powered by Disqus