Animal-Assisted Therapy and Children with Disabilities

This study examines the effect of a therapy dog on the academic success of elementary-aged children with moderate/severe autism as seen in their discrete trial training scores. Five of six students scored higher percentages when in the presence of the therapy dog, and all students showed increased verbalizations, on-task and prosocial behavior and reduced maladaptive behaviors. By the end of this session, attendees will be able to: 1) Access a review of the literature specific to animal-assisted therapy as it relates to the behaviors, social skills, and academic outcomes of children with disabilities. 2) How to find volunteer organizations that will visit the classroom. 3) How to choose among breeds, find a dog and certify for therapy. 4) Understanding the needs of the therapy animal. 5) How to prepare for and circumvent possible roadblocks from staff, administration and other parents when introducing a therapy animal to the school. 6) Laws surrounding animal-assisted therapy. 7) Specific ways therapy dogs can be used at home and in the classroom.

Elizabeth Massey