Four Eagleswood Township families received a special delivery on Wednesday, May 20 — therapeutic REST chairs to help their children improve their online education during these challenging school days.
REST stands for Responsive Equine Simulator Therapy. Developed by GAIT, LLC, the chair replicates the motion of a slowly walking horse to allow children with neurodevelopmental conditions (specifically attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism) to obtain the well-documented therapeutic benefits of equine motion, without an actual horse. The motion helps children with special needs to become calm, relaxed and focused, thereby enhancing their concentration and ability to learn. The technology is quickly becoming an important tool in many schools and health facilities.
Children have used REST at Eagleswood Elementary during the 2019-20 school year with very positive results. However, due to the recent changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, students lost access to the chair until a surprise donation was made by GAIT’s CEO, Joe Cositore.
“We wanted to help out the community during these difficult times, and this seemed for us the best way to do it” Cositore said. “We spoke regularly with Superintendent Deb Snyder about the success of the chair at Eagleswood, and we saw how we could help.”
Now four chairs are on loan to the students and families to use while they are being home schooled.
“The horse chair was a brand new addition to the school this year,” explained Jenna Karch, one of the mothers, whose child, Maelyn, uses the REST chair. “It ended up being placed in the speech room; the students would use it during their speech therapy sessions. At the time, we were hearing very positive things about it!”
Maelyn was born with a genetic condition called Williams Syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects one of her chromosomes and is characterized by intellectual and developmental disabilities and medical challenges, including cardiovascular disease.
Maelyn responds very well to the horse chair, according to Karch. She said it’s “just amazing” how GAIT developed the chair to mimic therapeutic horseback riding, which allows children like Maelyn (who, specifically, struggles with balance issues, gravitational insecurities and visual spatial processing disorders) not only to tolerate the movement, but also to enjoy and benefit from it in several different ways.
Cositore and Snyder personally delivered the latest-model REST chairs to families at their homes. The kids lit up when they saw them and immediately gave them a test drive. The parents, too, were thrilled to receive the loaners.
“We are especially grateful our family was chosen to receive the chair and amazed at the generosity of the company when Joe hand-delivered it,” Karch said. “It is not every day that several people come to your house wearing gloves and masks during a pandemic and deliver a piece of therapy equipment for your child!”
Distance learning has been very difficult for the Karch family because Maelyn depends on a large team of therapists and teachers, both in school and out, to help support her learning, Jenna explained. “Special education services are not set up to be “virtual,” and our kids require a higher level of direct in-person instruction. Maelyn is especially distracted with computer and iPads, and technology in general, so learning through a screen is extremely challenging.
“When using the horse chair, she fidgets less, doesn’t get up and down from the seat as often as in a regular chair, and her body is more relaxed, which allows her to participate better in tasks. She deals with a lot of inattention issues, distractibility and sensory issues, and the horse chair gives her body just the right amount of input and keeps her body calm. There are so many layers to sensory processing disorders, and this chair is a game changer!”
Karch emphasized her gratitude, both “to the staff at Eagleswood for making the connection and to this amazing company that truly came through when the need was there. It speaks volumes to the company’s dedication to children who face very unique and complicated challenges.”
Snyder said she couldn’t be happier with the partnership. “This is a very generous thing for Joe and GAIT to do, and it’s just a little nicer knowing these children are using the same therapeutic equipment they would if they were at school.”