University Presentation Showcase: Graduate Division

Project Title

Attitudes towards and perceptions of animal assisted interventions for school age children with disabilities

Presenter Hometown

West Chester, PA

Major

Occupational Therapy

Department

Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Degree

Graduate

Mentor

Dana Howell, PhD, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Mentor Department

Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Abstract

This qualitative study investigated the perceptions of stakeholders in an animal assisted occupational therapy program for elementary school students. The study sought to understand how the use of a therapy dog as a modality affects the performance, participation and well-being of students receiving occupational therapy. Interviews were conducted with school staff members, the therapy dog handlers, and parents of students who had participated in animal assisted therapy within the prior school year. Themes emerged of the therapy animal’s effect on student behavior, mood, and participation. Participants reported the animal as a motivator, yet a non-threatening presence for the children in the occupational therapy sessions. While there are operational and safety considerations for clients as well as the animals, therapy animals may benefit clients in their unique way of relating to people.

Presentation format

Poster

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Attitudes towards and perceptions of animal assisted interventions for school age children with disabilities

This qualitative study investigated the perceptions of stakeholders in an animal assisted occupational therapy program for elementary school students. The study sought to understand how the use of a therapy dog as a modality affects the performance, participation and well-being of students receiving occupational therapy. Interviews were conducted with school staff members, the therapy dog handlers, and parents of students who had participated in animal assisted therapy within the prior school year. Themes emerged of the therapy animal’s effect on student behavior, mood, and participation. Participants reported the animal as a motivator, yet a non-threatening presence for the children in the occupational therapy sessions. While there are operational and safety considerations for clients as well as the animals, therapy animals may benefit clients in their unique way of relating to people.