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Translational Research for Occupational Therapy: Using SPRE in Hippotherapy for Children with Developmental Disabilities

In this paper using a combination of methods in statistics and data science to enhance the understanding of outcomes and practice in occupational therapy. These new methods are applied, using larger data and smaller single-subject data, to a study in hippotherapy for children with developmental disabilities (DD).

 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates DD affects nearly 10 million children, aged 2–19, where diagnoses may be comorbid. Hippotherapy is defined here as a treatment strategy in occupational therapy using equine movement to achieve functional outcomes. Semiparametric ratio estimator (SPRE), a single-subject statistical and small data science model, is used to derive a “change point” indicating where the participant adapts to treatment, from which predictions are made. Data analyzed here is from an institutional review board approved pilot study using the Hippotherapy Evaluation and Assessment Tool measure, where outcomes are given separately for each of four measured domains and the total scores of each participant. Analysis with SPRE, using statistical methods to predict a “change point” and data science graphical interpretations of data, shows the translational comparisons between results from larger mean values and the very different results from smaller values for each HEAT domain in terms of relationships and statistical probabilities.

 Analyzing the outcomes for this participant using the SPRE results pointed to a relationship between static posture and sensory processing that was then confirmed by research literature. Furthermore, the negative predictive direction from the predictions in the SPRE analysis was explained by the occupational therapy descriptive notes during therapy. In this study, translational research “translates” comparative findings in statistical and data science research results into meaningful occupational therapy research, practice, and a better understanding of outcomes. In this sense, translational research may provide insights into implementing “data to practice” outcomes to produce new treatment options for patients.


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