Animal-assisted therapy has gained recognition as a valuable approach in improving the lives of individuals with various conditions. While pet therapy is often recommended for patients, its benefits extend to children with disabilities as well. Therapy pets, in particular, have shown remarkable positive effects on the quality of life of these children. This article will explore how therapy pets can help children with disabilities, the specific disabilities that can benefit from pet therapy, and the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of therapy pets for children with disabilities.
How Do Therapy Pets Help Children with Disabilities?
Therapy pets provide a unique form of comfort that can help relax a child’s brain. The presence of an animal enhances healthy personal relationships, positively impacting the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. The benefits of pet therapy for children with disabilities include:
- Oxytocin for improved cognitive function: The release of oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone,” helps soothe and calm the nervous system, improving cognitive function in children.
- Stress reduction: Pet therapy can help regulate the release of cortisol (stress hormone) resulting in reduced stress levels and improved focus on various tasks.
- Therapeutic, enjoyable company: Certified therapy pets are affectionate and friendly, providing calming and enjoyable experiences for children with disabilities.
Disabilities That Can Benefit from Certified Pet Therapy Services
Certified pet therapy services can be beneficial for children with a wide range of disabilities, including:
- Behavioural disorders: Therapy pets can help manage behavioural disorders, providing a sense of calm and promoting emotional stability.
- Cerebral Palsy: Children with Cerebral Palsy can benefit from pet therapy by engaging in activities that improve hand and limb dexterity and strength.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder: Children with autism feel more relaxed and have an easier time communicating in the presence of an animal
- Muscular dystrophy: Therapy animals can provide emotional support and companionship for children with muscular dystrophy, enhancing their overall well-being.
- Developmental/intellectual disabilities: Children with IDD can benefit from therapy pets by improving social skills, communication, and motivation.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries: Certified pet therapy services can assist in the recovery process for children with traumatic brain injuries, providing comfort and emotional support.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: The presence of a therapy animal can help reduce symptoms of PTSD in children, promoting emotional stability and trust.
Physical, Mental, and Emotional Benefits of Therapy Pets for Children
Therapy pets offer several physical, mental and emotional benefits for children with disabilities. The main benefits include:
- Physical benefits: Improved cardiovascular health, enhanced fine motor skills, reduced blood pressure, mobility improvements, pain alleviation, increased levels of activity, improved joint movement, expedited recovery time.
- Emotional benefits: Reduced stress levels, enhanced self-esteem, promotion of emotional stability, enhanced trust and bonding, reduction of anxiety and loneliness, increased happiness, reduced feelings of depression.
- Mental benefits: Facilitated social and personal development, improved communication skills, respect for personal space and boundaries, demonstration of responsibility, enhanced organizational and planning skills, increased motivation, improved problem-solving skills, reduction of symptoms of autism, ADHD, and PTSD.
The use of therapy pets has proven to be highly beneficial for children with disabilities. Their presence provides emotional support, enhances social skills, and improves overall well-being. Certified pet therapy services offer a valuable resource for parents and caretakers, enabling children to become more confident and engaged in their daily lives.