Animals have been used in therapy sessions for kids who have post tramautic stress disorder, abuse, and various other afflictions. There is a therapy ranch in Nevada that strictly used horses and trained therapists to help children learn to copy in their everyday lives. My son’s Developmental Pediatrician’s office now offers therapy with a dog to patients.
Animals can be used to help kids develop skills to not only take care of them, but also teach the children to begin taking care of themselves. It gives them a sense of purpose and the ability to see that they are valuable. The unconditional love that flows from animals helps children feel better about themselves.
We usually try to take our son to every petting zoo that is available for children no matter what type of event. He just loves animals so much. In fact, he’s ridden more horses than I ever have! The animals seem to calm him down when it comes to external emotions, but he is still excited to see them!
There is a movement in therapy right now to incorporate assistive animals with children who have autism and developmental disabilities in their classrooms. New Jersey recently signed into law where a school has to allow a specially trained dog to accompany children throughout their school day. The dog must be licensed as a service animal and meet health regulations with their shots.
This type of therapy can be beneficial to students with disabilities because the animals can be trained to sense when the child is frustrated, disturbed or even disoriented. The animal can help guide and calm them in new places or with new experiences. In addition, a service animal to be trained to sense seizures or other physical ailments of the child and allow the caretakers to be warned.
They are continually studying the positive effects animals can have on special needs children and I hope that someday it becomes more acceptable in the mainstream schools to have animals onsite for all kids to interact with on a daily basis. Because most children are city kids and aren’t exposed to a variety of animals at home, I feel that it would allow them to develop other skills that will help them in their daily lives. This is definitely something that would benefit society as a whole, but it’s definitely a movement to watch.