Given the growing research base for Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) with children, programs that involve Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) and Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) are increasingly prevalent across many community settings, from hospitals to libraries and public schools. The increasing popularity of AAI in public schools appears limited to service animals and canine-assisted reading programs however, as animal-assisted therapy in school-based therapeutic and special education settings is less common. Although anecdotal support exists for therapy animals in the school setting, most educators are unaware of the growing body of empirical support for using animal assisted activities and therapy to address a variety of student needs related to academic performance, communication, attention, motor skills, behavior, and social-emotional functioning. In order to assess the viability of AAI in public schools, a sample of educational professionals working in California (N = 23) was presented with a review of the literature and current practices in AAI. Following this presentation, participants were asked to provide feedback on the perception, potential value, and practicality of AAI in the public school setting, specifically for students with disabilities and special education needs. Results indicated that a majority of respondents felt that AAI, including both AAA and AAT, are worth pursuing in public schools, despite potential drawbacks and challenges. Most respondents reported that AAI would be well-received by stakeholders in their district, as well as provide a valuable benefit to students. Along with the current literature, these findings suggest that AAI may be an adjunct strategy for school-based therapeutic and classroom objectives that districts should consider exploring. However, problems specific to the IEP process and a need for more research continue to present obstacles to the expanded use of AAI in public schools.
|School:||Alliant International University|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Therapy, Educational psychology, Special education|
|Keywords:||Animal-assisted activities, Animal-assisted interventions, Animal-assisted therapy, Children, Human-animal interaction, School|
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