Therapy Animals

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By nature, children are curious. They explore the world around them through their senses. But for some kids, their experiences look a little different. My 4th child for example was born with an airway defect, and by age 3 diagnosed with cerebral palsy. By age 7, he had many diagnoses. It was obvious that he explored the world in a different way to his older siblings. So, we embraced his abilities and let him lead the charge in therapy and development. One of his helpers, is a chicken.

Animal therapy has proven to be very positive! Animals offer physical, emotional, mental and behavioural therapies. They strengthen language, sensory processing, self-esteem, and empathy! They encourage interactive play, positive behaviours, assist in physical independence, and emotional well-being. For my son, he will actually sit and work for 45
whole minutes with a therapist if he has a chicken in his lap! Thats a pretty big deal! Some days I can even get him to wear pants! “Lets put your pants on first, then you can play with the chickens”. I know some of you reading this understand what I am talkin’ about! Some days are shit-on-a-stick hard, so you take the wins!

For some kids they have a service animal, while others have a support animal. So, what’s the difference?! A service animal is a dog or a small horse trained to do a range of tasks.
Whereas a support animal can be any animal but it is not trained, rather they provide comfort. You may have seen dogs walking the halls of hospitals, bringing comfort to patients of all ages. Animals can be imperative for some people who struggle with disability.

Studies done by UCLA show the benefits for patients include:

  • Reduced loneliness
  • Lowers anxiety
  • Provides comfort
  • Increases mental stimulation
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Slows breathing
  • Reduces the amount of medications some people need
  • Reduces physical pain
  • Engages children who may be on the spectrum

For 2 years my son talked about chickens until finally I decided, “Lets try it!” It was an experiment which resulted in many benefits. My son would have support (and wear pants), and we got fresh eggs! I didn’t realise how much chickens poop! But, we are not the first people to have a therapy chicken! A quick online search proved others already had a solution to the chicken-poo problem. Chicken Diapers! (It’s a thing. Google it. You’re welcome!)

If you’re curious and want to learn more, check out the following links:

Children with Autism:

https://www.uclahealth.org/pac/Workfiles/PAC/ChildrenW.AutismAndTherapyDogs_Solomon.pdf

Animal-assisted therapies in ICUs:
https://hub.jhu.edu/2018/02/12/therapy-dogs-could-help-icupatients/?utm_source=Hub+- +v2+Synced+List&utm_campaign=27fc91370dEMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_12&utm_medium=email&utm_t erm=0_3aa22d10c7-27fc91370d-69620465

Animal therapy for heart patients:
https://aacnjournals.org/ajcconline/article-abstract/ 16/6/575/622/Animal-Assisted-Therapy-in-PatientsHospitalized?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Pet therapy statistics:
https://www.thezebra.com/resources/research/animal-therapystatistics

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