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Children & Adults with Special Needs

We have had the opportunity to share our animals with both adults and children with disabilities on many occasions over the past 10 years, and have had the opportunity to see the benefits first hand.

In the United States animal assisted therapy is very popular and now is becoming more and more popular here is Australia.

Horses

A person can put aside his or her own troubles in the immediate job of caring for a horse. Horses are large and strong, which challenges a person to overcome his fear in order to work with the animal. Horses mirror moods, too; they respond negatively to negative emotions, teaching the client that his behaviour can affect others, and making it necessary to modify behaviour in order to work successfully with the animal.

Dogs

Other animal assisted therapies include canine therapy which is the most common and seems to be especially successful with emotionally troubled people (both children and adults). A dog’s ability to empathise and to physically interact often helps emotionally closed people by creating a safe relationship in which they can let their guard down.

Donkeys

Donkeys are sometimes used as well, in programs that are very similar to equine programs. The gentle nature of donkeys, and their smaller stature, makes them less intimidating for children who may be easily scared by a horse.

Cats

Though cats aren’t as easy to include in AAT (animal assisted therapy) programs (mainly because more people are allergic to them), some programs work very well in assisted living and nursing homes. Because cats are calmer, older people are often more comfortable with them than with dogs. Cats are also able to get physically closer to a patient (sitting in her lap, for example) than most dogs, and the closeness can provide added comfort and ease feelings of loneliness in older patients.

Small Animals

Other small animals are often used as well; rabbits, guinea pigs, chick, ducklings, birds, even fish. The smaller animals are great for older patients, or in group homes and other residential settings. The presence of an animal can make a clinical setting feel more like home, and help patients relax.

The emotional effects that therapy animals bring to their patients are even more wide-ranging and important. Therapy animals are proven to reduce stress, loneliness, grief, fear, and pain. They allow patients to focus their attention on something outside of themselves—an especially important part of therapy for the mentally ill, who can have difficulty thinking or talking about nothing but their own problems.

The animals provide a source of entertainment in otherwise drab and impersonal places, and allow for the patients to interact socially in ways they might not have before. For those in counselling, the animals open an emotionally safe avenue of communication between the patient and the therapist.

Therapy animals accept humans for who they are, which consequently increases confidence and self-esteem. For those who have been physically or sexually abused, the animals allow them to learn appropriate, safe, non-threatening touch. For elderly and ill patients, the animals serve to spark old memories, orient people back to reality, and increase their sense of responsibility toward another life. This, in turn, gives people a reason to live. All in all, therapy animals activate many patients’ nurturing sides and give them a focus outside of their particular problems.

Therapy animals positively affect people of all ages. The animals bring a host of emotional and physical benefits to those in hospitals, nursing homes, and other places. Therapy animals are reputed to save many lives, and provide love and kindness to those in life’s final hours.