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Pet Therapy for Children With Disabilities

Updated on May 8, 2013

Pet Therapy Helps Children in Many Ways

Pet Assisted Therapy rescue children emotionally, physically, and in many ways
Pet Assisted Therapy rescue children emotionally, physically, and in many ways | Source

The Benefits of Pet Assisted Therapy

Dogs and kids are a natural. So natural that children with disabilities, whether they are physical or mentally disabled, have shown tremendous benefits when they interact with dogs.

Children with disabilities gain more confidence and have shown greater motivation to take on new things. Dogs have an amazing instinct in dealing with people. They can sense that a child with disabilities may need more patiences.
When dogs assist children who have physical limitations, they can help them perform tasks that assist the child. Companion dogs are specially trained dogs that can open doors, pick up items that have been dropped, and help in activities of daily living.
Dogs stimulate these children and can even offer a form of physical therapy by encouraging them to move, exercise and stretch to interact with their canine friend.

Pets Provide a Unique Support System

Pets help children with their mobility. They help promote exercise and stretching, almost like a form of physical therapy. Even something ordinary, like a child throwing a pet’s toy can help improve hand eye coordination.

Emotionally, a dog becomes a life long friend to a child with disabilities and helps them form emotional bonds and companionship. Children feel a sense of being loved and cared for by a dog. Their self esteem increases as they struggle and gives them a feeling that they are not alone.

A disabled child, learns how to interact with others because they interact with their pet. Dogs reduce stress and open up opportunities for them to meet other people. All these things help people heal and feel better.

Pets provide a unique support system for children with disabilities. They help motivate, inspire and offer emotional support through their loyalty and companionship. The benefits to children are great. Their self esteem and confidence rises.

They learn to care of another living being, and have a constant companion. The presence of an animal has shown to increase pleasure and productivity.

Horse Assisted Therapy

Horses help children with disabilities
Horses help children with disabilities | Source

Dolphins are wonderful for therapy

Dolphins are very effective in pet assisted therapy
Dolphins are very effective in pet assisted therapy | Source

Horse and Dolphin Assisted Therapy

Some programs use dogs, horses and dolphins. These animals provde benefits through physical therapy, confidence, and motivation, and improve therapeutic outcomes.
Riding horses has been shown to be especially beneficial for children with a variety of disabilities. Children with Down’s Syndrome, and autism, as an example gain greatly physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Riding improves muscle tone, coordination, balance, emotional well being, and motor skill development. The organizations that use horses as therapy for kids, us different kinds of horses for different purposes.

  • Miniature horses are brought to hospitals and schools
  • Draft horses can pull wagons that are full of children.

Horses have been shown to be effective for children who can’t walk on their own. Their muscles get toned, their posture improves, and the rocking motion of the horse, mimics the pelvci motion of walking. Some children become so improved, they are able to learn to walk with a walker. Just by improving their posture, the children sit better in a wheelchair. They found there is a difference in public perception, how they are treated, and how they interact with others, between someone who sits hunched over with their eyes looking to the ground, compared to children who sit up better and have direct eye contact.

Dolphin Human Therapy, an assited rehabilitation program in Miami, Florida, uses dolphins to help children and adults with special needs.

Dog Assisted Therapy

Pets help children with a variety of disabilities
Pets help children with a variety of disabilities | Source

Service Dogs

Programs with service dogs are very effective, especially since service dogs can live with the child and help with many of their activities of daily living. Children who have muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, disabling injuries, and other reason, service dogs help these children in remarkable ways.

Service dogs can learn to turn lights on with their noses, and turn the lights off with their teeth. They can open doors that have been adapted for the service dog, they can pick up things that fall on the floor. The dogs help children gain confidence and independence. They get the children out of the house and functioning in ways they could not on their own.

Dogs also help relieve human caretakers in some ways. Service dogs are free for qualified children with disabilities. There are not enough dogs for the people who need the. The actual cost of training, veterinary care, feeding, etc, the dog, is nearly $20,000, and these companies rely on fundraising to help these children in need.

The Many Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy

The amazing effects animal assisted therapy has on children with disabilities far outweighs any cost.
If you would like to make a donation, to help keep make these programs to more children, you can look up the various programs throughout the country, that interest you.
The importance of pets to children, provide unconditional love, warmth and affection. They give a new perspective, motivation, amusement, and companionship that help children in ways that provide psychological, physical, and emotional benefits.


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    • profile image

      Clair Rossouw 5 years ago

      To Whom It May Concern:

      I wonder if you could assist with a few enquiries I have with regards to pet / animal / horse training & therapy please.

      Firstly, let me begin by giving you a little husband & I, & his daughter, relocated to Adelaide, Australia, from South Africa on 1st July 2012, as my husband accepted a wonderful career offer here, so this is basically our 3rd month in this wonderful country & absolutely loving it!

      I have been looking at your website amongst a few others, & would just like to know if you operate in the Adelaide area as well, & if so, how would one go about all this now? If not, are there any other places that you could possibly recommend that I could get in touch with here & what my first steps would need to be? And also, do you have to have your own pet/s in order to become a part of the team, or is there another way around this by some chance??

      I haven't done anything like this before, but am truly one of the biggest animal lovers around...always have been...& the prospect of becoming involved in animal & pet training & therapy with people & children has appealed to me for quite some time now, & I am really eager to find out how to begin a new journey & adventure like this! Unfortunately, along with this very big...& hard...move to here, also came the absolute heart-break & agony as well of not being able to bring our beloved pets with us, & we're just not ready for pets of our own again at this stage & might not be for a long time...that was the worst thing we have ever had to do...hence my question about having to have your own pets for this purpose. I do, however, need to have something to do with animals & find that I miss that interaction with them greatly, & just feeding off their unconditional love & companionship, & what better way to put that burning desire to use but to embark on a whole new avenue like this in life now & helping others too!

      Thank you for taking the time to read my e-mail, & I eagerly look forward to hearing from you soon!

      Best Regards,

      Mrs. Clair Rossouw

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      DoItForHer 5 years ago

      Jaye, that is interesting. What a great contribution to the Hub :)

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I can see why dogs would be very helpful to children with disabilities. As a senior citizen who sustained an accident that limited my mobility, left me with chronic pain and ended my career six years prematurely, I found that bringing a dog into my life was immensely therapeutic for me, though I never thought of her as a "therapy dog." Taking care of her needs and loving her helped me overcome depression and look forward to my future in a positive manner. What made this situation so remarkable was the fact that, at age 61, I'd NEVER had a pet of my own before, but suddenly felt the need--very strongly--to have a dog in my life. She's brought me so much joy, and I do as much as I can to make her life happy as well. Dogs are wonderful!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a lovely hub, toknowinfo. Pets can be a wonderful help for children with disabilities and people with problems. Thank you for the information.

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 5 years ago

      My dog and I used to volunteer for the Animal Enhanced Therapy Program at the local hospital.

      Sometimes an elderly person would be committed to be in the hospital for a lengthy period of time with no hope to return to their home. Their pets would be given away. Family would be to busy to visit. Severe depression would set in.

      Then the dogs would come in and the patient would pet the dogs, which is more activity than they had done in the last three days combined.

      Those dogs usually don't change lives, but sometimes they make are a part of something that makes a big difference. More of a difference than anything or anyone else could.

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 5 years ago from Oakland, CA

      What a great Hub! I know first-hand the therapeutic benefits of dog companionship, but I also had the chance to experience equine therapy in my eating disorder recovery. It really does help you to have a difference awareness of your body!