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Lydia Sternfeld, MS, OTR, ESMHL is licensed in both New York State and Connecticut and has been practicing in the field of pediatric occupational therapy since 2006.  She received her Master's in Occupational Therapy from Dominican University in New York State and is a PATH International Certified Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning. Lydia has completed both Level I and Level II of the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA) courses in Hippotherapy Treatment Principles.


Lydia has practiced occupational therapy in a variety of settings including early intervention, the public school system, preschools, psychiatric facilities, sensory gyms, home care and hippotherapy settings. She has earned certifications and taken advanced coursework in sensory integration, hippotherapy, Therapeutic Listening, Handwriting Without Tears, and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Laura Merino, MS, OTR has been practicing Pediatric Occupational Therapy since 2013. She received her master’s degree from Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. 

Prior to her Occupational Therapy degree, Laura worked as an environmental educator for elementary-school-aged children, teaching nature-themed topics outdoors and in classrooms. She also worked in home settings as a respite care worker for children and families.

Laura has experience practicing OT with children in a variety of settings, including preschools, elementary schools, early intervention centers, in-home services, and sensory clinics. She has earned certifications and taken coursework/training in Sensory Integration Theory, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Strengthening Visual Perceptual skills, Sensorimotor Feeding difficulties, and hippotherapy, as well as foundational training in Neuro Developmental Treatment. 

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy (OT) is a health profession that helps people across the lifespan to participate in activities they need and want to do daily. Pediatric OT helps children with disabilities and those recovering from injuries participate in school, playing, socialization, and age-appropriate self-care activities. At Play & Motion, we do this using nature as our clinic. There is a lot of research that shows the benefits of nature for health and wellbeing and academic outcomes. Being in nature helps boost the benefit of therapy and move kids towards their physical, cognitive, and social goals.

Therapeutic intervention involves many techniques and strategies, and parent education so that children can recover from injuries, learn and regain skills that help promote independence in daily activities. Occupational therapists develop individualized plans and goals after conducting evaluations and family interviews essential for the best treatment outcome and client satisfaction.

What is hippotherapy?

"The term hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement as a therapy tool to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to promote functional outcomes.

The average horse walks at a rate of approximately 100 steps per minute.  Just 5 minutes on a walking horse represents 500 neuro motor inputs to the patient.  In a typical therapy session, 15 to 25 minutes of equine movement may be incorporated by the treating therapist – which represents 1500 to 2500 neuromotor inputs to the patient. 

Incorporating hippotherapy into an occupational therapy, physical therapy or speech language pathology session can serve as a powerful tool for the facilitation of the key neuromotor systems that support function.  Skillfully applied equine movement, under the direction of a therapist, can offer the patient the opportunity for complex motor learning.  Hippotherapy is combined with other standard therapy tools/strategies in an intervention plan designed to address the treatment needs of the client.

Strength, Muscle Coordination and Sensory Processing used for walking, talking, and the use of fine motor skills for activities of daily living and general attention to tasks have all been shown to be positively impacted by equine movement as a facilitation tool/strategy, when under the direction of a therapist, as part of a larger total plan of care. In additional, increased motivation and participation in treatment and social emotional benefits have been reported."

American Hippotherapy Association

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