In Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) the human-animal bond is utilized to help meet therapeutic goals and reach individuals who are otherwise difficult to engage in verbal therapies. AAT is considered an emerging therapy at this time, and more research is needed to determine the effects and confirm the benefits. Nevertheless, there is a growing body of research and case studies that illustrate the considerable therapeutic potential of using animals in therapy. AAT has been associated with improving outcomes in four areas: autism-spectrum symptoms, medical difficulties, behavioral problems, and emotional well-being. This course is designed provide therapists, educators, and caregivers with the information and techniques needed to begin using the human-animal bond successfully to meet individual therapeutic goals.
The author, Lois Jean Brady, MA, CCC-SLP, is a practicing speech-language pathologist registered in animal-assisted therapy. She has a very loveable potbelly pig named Buttercup who accompanies her to therapy sessions, where he enhances her work with students on the spectrum. Buttercup has made a lasting impression on students, staff, and caregivers – essentially all who meet him. He has helped some students attain their goals and others just feel safer and more secure in the therapy environment, allowing them to focus their attention on a task. He has heard many students utter their first words, start conversations, or ask questions. He has been combed, brushed, fed, and cared for by many students. Lois has found that having an animal creates an atmosphere of trust that motivates children to expand their skills, strive to do their best, and strengthen the relationship between them and her.
Rosy Chu interviews Lois and Buttercup on KTVU Bay Area People: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=9ypo0GzPkUs