Animal Assisted Therapy doesn’t have to be restricted to the clinic. If your child and family pet have an extraordinary bond use that motivation to help your child address some of their therapy goals at home.
Download a list of 10 activities you can try at home with your fur-friend!
Download this article with bonus content: Therapeutic Benefit of Animals
1. Stress reduction
Numerous studies have shown that working with therapy dogs decreases your heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (stress hormone) (HABRI, 2017; Pet Partners, 2017; Melson & Fine, 2015). When children are more regulated during their therapy sessions they can better attend to challenging therapy tasks for a longer period.
2. Increased Social Interactions
In the non-judgmental presence of an animal, we see that children become more confident in interacting with peers and adults. Studies show improvements in eye contact, participation in back and forth conversation, and functional play, especially when the task is centered around a therapy animal. (Andreason, et al., 2017; O’Haire, McKenzie, Beck, & Slaughter, 2015).
3. Increased Sensory Tolerance
Therapy dogs can provide a safe and enjoyable way to build tolerance of sounds, textures, and smells. The calming pressure input of a paw on a leg or sitting in a lap is a powerful regulator (Grandin, Fine, O’Haire, Carlisle, & Bowers, 2015). Imagine how rewarding touching a slimy and smelly tennis ball can be when the dog is so excited to be interacting.
4. Reduced Impulsive Behaviors
Many children innately recognize a need to control their bodies in order to be safe in the presence of an animal (Andreason, et al., 2017; O’Haire, McKenzie, Beck, & Slaughter, 2015). In AAT sessions, children who normally struggle with gentle touch or safe boundaries show remarkable ability in the presence of a therapy dog and translate this skill to other situations.
5. Improved Attention
The inherent motivation and comfort a therapy dog provides is a natural facilitator for attention, especially in more challenging tasks that without the animal may only be completed in short periods. What’s even better, is we are seeing improvements in this skill carried across settings. (Andreason, et al., 2017; O’Haire, McKenzie, Beck, & Slaughter, 2015)
Did you know Shandy Clinic offers Animal Assisted Therapy?
Animal Assisted Therapy is simply, planned, and structured therapy sessions designed to target your child’s therapy goals through the inclusion of a therapy dog.
Skills Addressed Through Animal Assisted Therapy
Fine Motor Skills
Opening pockets to get treats for the dogs, placing clothespins on the dog’s leash, handwriting cards for the dog. Animal-assisted therapy can greatly improve the results of your child’s occupational therapy and physical therapy sessions.
Holding challenging positions to build core strength and balance in order to pet the dog or throw the ball.
Self Care & ADL’s
Child and dog together wash their face, brush their hair, put on clothes, cut nails, eat together etc.
Making dog treats, keeping a calendar, and recalling dates that the dogs will join sessions, dog “memory”.
Speech & Language
Animal Assisted Therapy is a great supplement for Speech Therapy. It helps with articulation for a dog to understand commands, social & pragmatic language to learn about the dog from a handler.
The presence of the dog itself is regulating. In addition, we can teach deep breathing by matching the dogs breathing rate.