Animal assisted speech and language therapy is provided by a licensed speech-language pathologist using animals who are specially selected to perform this work.
"Animal assisted therapy" is the planned inclusion of an animal in a patient’s treatment plan. It is a structured, goal-directed intervention in which an animal is incorporated as an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is delivered by a professional health or human service provider who demonstrates skill and expertise regarding the clinical applications of human-animal interactions within an individualized treatment plan.
Animals who help in our speech therapy sessions include horses, miniature horses, miniature donkeys, bunnies, goats, sheep, and chickens.
Animals, and interactions with them, can be used as a tool to help the speech-language pathologist target skills such as motivation, participation, behavior, receptive and expressive language skills, pragmatics/social language, articulation and phonology, and functional communication skills.
According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, "people are happier and healthier in the presence of animals. Scientifically-documented benefits of the human-animal bond include decreased blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and enhanced feelings of well-being." In addition, research provides evidence of the following benefits:
Above: The horse, Owen, helping a client practice his /k/ sound. The client took each final /k/ picture and said the phrase "looK at..." to Owen before putting the pictures on his necK. He then had to breaK Carrots for Owen's snacK and put them in a bucKet. Owen loved his new accessories and his snack and turned his head to look at every picture before the client put them on. Activities such as this are highly motivating and reinforcing for our clients.
Above: A client completes a following direction activity while feeding carrots to a bunny. Our animals help with joint attention skills and focus.
Above: Two miniature horses wait to greet a client. In addition to miniature horses, our Islandia location houses chickens, sheep, goats, donkeys, bunnies, cats and a dog. Clients are able to spend time interacting with the animals and completing various speech and language tasks in this motivating and enriching environment.
Above: A child making social connections with one of our therapy horses. Greetings and bids of farewell are important parts of our therapy sessions.
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