Animal Assisted Therapy in India
Every month I choose to showcase the work of psychologists and other professionals who are doing groundbreaking work. This post is an interview with Rohini Fernandes and Radhika Nair who passionately work with Animal Assisted Therapy and have such brilliant reviews from various schools and organizations. They are also looking at hiring therapists to work with them. Please get in touch, if the work seems interesting to you.
Tell the readers about Animal Assisted Therapy?
In animal-assisted therapy (AAT) our psychologists work along with trained therapy dogs to speed up the recovery process and to help a child learn or improve various skills(social, verbal, physical, cognitive). Our dogs are used to motivate the client to reach his/her goals as children are more motivated to do activities with our dogs rather than just only for a human therapist. We also use AAT to help clients deal with emotional/behavioural problems. How does Animal assisted Therapy compliment traditional forms of therapy?
Animal-assisted therapy enables us to bring the unconditional love of an animal into a therapy setting. Our dogs provide that extra something that a human therapist cannot always give during therapy. Having a friendly pet in the room allows the client to relax, which helps build rapport and trust with the therapist. A therapy dog’s presence serves as an effective ice-breaker with withdrawn and uncooperative clients who see the therapist as more friendly if there is a therapy pet present in the room. Having a warm, furry dog to stroke and hug is also therapeutic to clients who are not comfortable being touched by people, especially for those who have been physically or sexually abused.
Is there a success story that has really impacted you ?
Seema is an eight-year-old child who has Autism. She found it very difficult to interact with people, had a very short attention span and would not verbally communicate her needs.
However after she was introduced to Oscar she became extremely fond of him and loved hugging him and resting her head on his tummy. Her attention span and concentration improved tremendously through activities like playing fetch or walking him. She also started saying simple words like ‘ball’, ‘dog’, ‘come’ etc. These improvements were seen not only in the therapy room but also in her class and home environment. She also started playing with her peers and responding positively to her teacher who says that she is ‘Now a happier child’. What kind of concerns and population, respond well to Animal Assisted Therapy?
Our biggest success rate has been with children who have been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Developmental Delays, Cognitive Disabilities and Intellectual Impairment. When children with these developmental disabilities assist in feeding, grooming, exercising and playing with our therapy pets, it promotes the development of motor and organizational skills.
For children who do not usually participate in group activities this increases their willingness to be involved in group activities. These therapy sessions play an important role in helping these children socialise and express their emotions in a healthy and appropriate manner. Our therapy dogs also serve as a “role model” for the children in terms of self-care and personal hygiene as they take turns in grooming and feeding the dog.
But most of all, in caring for our animals these children (whose frame of reference usually does not extend beyond themselves) learn to relate to and communicate better in their interpersonal relationships. Our therapy dogs provide these children with the opportunity to experience, internal and external sensations, something that they are unable to do with other people. Tell our readers how they can reach out to you.