What is animal assisted therapy?
Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is utilized by medical practitioners across the country to help patients of all ages and backgrounds reach their full potential. It is defined as: “Goal-oriented, planned, structured, and documented therapeutic intervention directed by health and human service providers as part of their profession” (Pet Partners, 2017).
Would animal-assisted therapy help my child?
AAT is an effective way for individuals to engage in challenging therapy tasks with renewed motivation, reduced anxiety, and improved-self concept. Some common benefits for pediatric diagnoses include (HABRI, 2017) :
- Security and independence
- Increase social motivation and confidence
- Reduction in negative behaviors
- Reading and cognition – due to stress reduction
- Fine and gross motor skill development through motivating dog centered tasks
Emotional Development & Social Skills:
- Improved social integration
- Improved recognition/sensitivity toward moods and needs of others
What would my child do in a therapy session?
AAT is available to your child in their speech, physical, or occupational therapy sessions. Interventions will vary based on your child’s goals but will commonly involve: coordination activities, speech articulation and pragmatics, social skills, sensory processing and calming techniques, and fine motor skill development. Each session will be designed to meet your child’s goals while providing comfort and motivation through the assistance of a therapy dog.
What is animal-assisted group therapy?
The Shandy Clinic is proud to offer AAT social skills groups to help your child learn to participate with peers comfortably and positively. During group sessions, there will be four children, 2 therapists, and one dog working on common social goals including reduction of anxiety, appropriate social dialogue, establishing and maintaining boundaries, and attention. This is a very fun way to overcome social fears and challenges!
Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) (2017)
Research. Retrieved from https://habri.org/research/
Pet Partners (2017)
Terminology. Retrieved from https://petpartners.org/learn/terminology
Therapy Dog Volunteer Program!
We are so excited that you and your therapy dog want to join our team of volunteers! Here are a couple of things we think you should know before getting started.
What does a therapy dog do in a pediatric clinic?
The Shandy Clinic is dedicated to working with children from infancy to 18 years of age to reach their full potential across all areas of life. We offer occupational, physical, and speech therapy for a variety of developmental diagnoses and delays. During an animal-assisted therapy session, the clinician you are partnered with will have a session planned that effectively incorporates your therapy animal and their patient to address specific patient goals. This may involve speech articulation goals, motivating your child to complete a flight of stairs, or providing regulating input to an overstimulated child.
Is your dog a good fit for a pediatric clinic?
The most important part of being an effective therapy dog team is understanding your dog’s strengths and weaknesses. For many animals, children can be difficult to engage with due to unpredictable behaviors, poor physical boundaries, and excitability. During a volunteer session at the clinic your dog may encounter times when multiple children are present at once, children may be crying or screaming, or some children may be fearful. If your dog is naturally afraid of scenarios like this, then it may be better suited for volunteering with adult populations. On the other hand, if your dog can tolerate these scenarios please be aware we will also do our best to prevent a dog from becoming overstimulated or uncomfortable during their time here.
Requirements for volunteering
Think you are a good fit?! Here is what we need:
- Proof of therapy dog registration and Canine Good Citizen award
- Proof of liability insurance
- Current vaccination records
- Completion of HIPPA training (provided on-premises)
- Non-employee confidentiality agreement
- Completion of 1-2 in-clinic observations
- Read and sign the volunteer education packet
After proof of documentation, you will complete 1-2 observation sessions with Jenny Ventker, animal-assisted therapy program director, to ensure the clinic is a good fit for you and your dog. Observations are based on pass/fail criteria, which are available in the volunteer packet.
Service Animal Information
Emotional support and therapy animals are different from service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These animals are working animals, not pets. Learn about service animals, rules, and regulations at the Rocky Mountain ADA Center website.