Animal Assisted Therapy for Children with Disabilities

Oct 31, 2011
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After a recent phone conversation with my sister, I started thinking about ways that animals can and have been used as therapeutic aids for children with disabilities. While I remember hearing tid-bits about animals being used to help children with disabilities in the past, I was very interested to find out more about the topic.

I opened my laptop and goggled “animal therapy for children with disabilities” and the following results came up as types of animal therapies that are currently being used today; Equine, Dolphin and Canine Therapy. Equine, or horse, therapy has been used to help children with autism, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord and brain injuries, visual and hearing impairment and developmental, intellectual and behavioral disabilities. By using horseback riding, children can strengthen, stretch and tone muscles that can aid in walking or standing. Dolphin Therapy offers children a chance to experience low-impact swimming in a low-stress environment. While the act of swimming alone helps to increase flexibility and strengthen muscles, Dolphin Therapy can increase a child’s ability to focus and use of fine motor skills. Dolphin Therapy has shown positive results when used to work with children with cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, autism and a range of emotional disabilities. Dog Therapy has a unique element to it that Equine and Dolphin Therapy do not offer; the dog can stay in the home of the child it is servicing. Dogs have a calming influence and can dispel anxiety and tension. Dogs also have the ability to motivate children to participate in physical therapy activities such as walking, jumping or running.

After reading through a few of the animal therapy program descriptions, I have come to the conclusion that animal therapy offers children with disabilities an opportunity for companionship and to connect with another living being, a chance to promote confidence and build self-esteem and is an interactive and fun way for children with disabilities to get stronger and reach their goals.  If you are interested in finding out more about animal therapy programs that are offered around the United States, the following links will lead you to a list of programs for each type of animal therapy that was talked about above:

Author: Tamika Jones

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  • BobLujano

    Dogs are great! However, any animal therapy that improve the lives of people is tremendous. Thanks for all those involved in making a difference.