What is Animal Assisted Therapy?

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a goal-oriented, planned, structured, and documented therapeutic intervention. Just as my mom would use a toy, game, book, computer program etc., in her speech therapy sessions, I am there as a tool or approach to help her elicit her goals.

In my mom’s practice, she has found that using me in animal-assisted speech therapy can:

  • Build a child’s confidence,
  • Enhance a child’s empathy and their ability to care,
  • Provide a child with unconditional love and acceptance,
  • Reduce a child’s fears and anxieties,
  • Decrease a child’s feeling of isolation,
  • Decrease stress,
  • Help teach appropriate behaviors with both animals and people,
  • Increase social skills and social behaviors,
  • Increase engagement and participation in sessions, and
  • Motivate a child to meet their communication goals!

To learn more about the fascinating history of animal-assisted therapy and how animals have been used over the last few hundred years, visit “The History of AAT”.

While working as an aid to a special education teacher at Maor, an intimate school that provided educational services for children with special needs, I met Lola. Lola provided comfort to our students when needed. She offered unconditional love during our students’ emotional arousals and aided in stabilizing the different emotions our students exhibited. Lola was trained to be attentive to the needs of our children. Additionally, she increased mobility from different activities such as petting. When a student needed an incentive to exercise, she walked at the pace of the child. Lola’s simple, gentle, and non-judgmental nature was a support system for both our students and faculty at Maor. ~ Ariella R