ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY: The Secret to Building Confidence in Children By Brooklyn Storme
nimal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative intervention that supports the healthy emotional development of children. But what is it and how does it work?
AAT is an approach to wellness that involves the child, the practitioner and the animal. The animal's role is to do most of the therapeutic work with the practitioner being there for guidance and handling. AAT is more than just taking your pet to work because the animal has to have been trained in interventions or strategies to help the child. A good AAT practitioner will have attended formal training with their animal and while there are equine AAT practitioners on the peninsula, the most commonly used animal is a canine. Using a canine as an example, the owner would first take the dog to training. There, the canine would be trained and tested for temperament and obedience. It’s also very important that the animal is taught a selection of ‘tricks’because this can help engagement especially with shy or unconfident little ones. There may also be some children who are afraid of dogs. In these cases, AAT would begin with the practitioner talking with the child about dogs and about their fears. When ready, the next step would be to talk about the therapy dog and so the practitioner might tell funny stories about the dog to the child. From there, the practitioner and child might look at videos or photos of the therapy dog and so on. When the child is ready, the practitioner will talk with the parents or guardian about next steps. They will explain the process of AAT and discuss the occupational health and safety matters associated with the service. Just like the practitioner has to ensure the safety of the child, the practitioner also has to ensure the safety of the canine or animal. When ready, the child will be introduced to the animal and this could begin with a simple observation (the child observing the animal). Eventually, when the child becomes de-sensitized or used to the animal, next steps can take place. The practitioner might teach the child how best to approach the dog, how the dog likes to be patted (or not). continued next page..... 18
Peninsula Kids – Autumn 2018
Peninsula Kids Autumn 2018