Impacts of Animal Assisted Therapy on Students with Disabilities

Presenter:  Morganne Madonia

Topic:  Animal Assisted Therapy

Abstract:  Animal assisted therapy (AAT) has been known to increase social skills and have positive effects on people (Scorzato et al, 2017). Beetz et al (2012, as cited in Sandt, 2020) found that humans who interacted in animal assisted interventions experienced decreased cortisol level, lowered heart rate, lowered blood pressure, improved social behavior, improved quality of interpersonal interactions, reduced anxiety, elevated mood, improved empathy, enhanced learning, diminished aggression, and reduced perception of pain. Along with helping individuals without disabilities, AAT has been shown to improve characteristics in children with disabilities and adults with disabilities (Scorzato et al, 2017; Griffioen et al., 2019). Griffioen et al (2019) found that after students with autism and down syndrome engaged in dog-assisted therapy (DAT), social behavior and their focus increased, as well as symptoms decreasing, such as hand-flapping, repetitive behavior, and talking about unrelated subjects. O’Haire et al (2015, as cited in Griffioen, 2019) found that after children with autism engaged with animals, they had a lower amount of stress than they typically experience. AAT should be explored more regarding how it can positively impact students with disabilities.

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