Animal Therapies and Autism
Matt Colligan
Caldwell College
Search Terms
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PsycINFO
 Animal-Assisted Therapy + Autism
 Hippotherapy + Autism
 Pet Therapy + Autism
 Dolphin Therapy + Autism
Google Search
 Animal-Assisted Therapy + Autism
 Dolphin Therapy + Autism
 Hippotherapy + Autism
 Effects+Animal-Assisted Therapy + Autism
YouTube
 Effects+Animal-Assisted Therapy + Autism
 Animal-Assisted Therapy+Autism
 Dolphin Therapy + Autism
Overview
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Definitions
Common Applications
Claims
Brief History
In Practice
Hippotherapy
Dolphin Therapy
Costs
Certifications
Research
Fundamental Concerns
Conclusion
What is Animal Therapy?

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)-A goal directed
intervention in which an animal meeting specific
criteria is an integral part of the treatment process.
 Delivered and/or directed by a health/human
service provider working within the scope of
his/her profession.
 Variety of settings (group or individual)
 Documented and evaluated
Arkow, P. (n.d.).Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activities. Retrieved from
http://www.animaltherapy.net/
What is Animal Therapy?
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An animal, such as a dog or horse becomes a basic
part of a person’s day
Also referred to as:
 AAT-Animal-Assisted Therapy
 Pet Therapy-informal/generic
 AAA-Animal-Assisted Activities
http://www.deltasociety.org/Document.Doc?id=10
Arkow, P. (n.d.).Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activities. Retrieved from
http://www.animaltherapy.net/
Common Applications
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Dolphin Therapy
Hippotherapy/Equine
Therapy (Horse Therapy)
Bovine Therapy
Canine Therapy
Elephant Therapy
Bird Therapy
Rabbit Therapy
Lizard Therapy
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Animal Assisted Therapy
Equine Therapy for Children with Asperger's and Autism [Animal Assisted
Therapy]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.equine-therapyprograms.com/ database.
Animal Therapy to Treat
Autism

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Peer-mediated therapy intended to improve social
behavior via the use of pets
Dogs-commonly used
 Socially demanding qualities
 Licking, barking, tendencies to follow
 Inherently sociable
Claims
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Promote improvement in human physical, social,
emotional, and/or cognitive functioning.
Gain self-understanding and emotional growth
Build skills in assertiveness, self-responsibility, nonverbal communication, self-confidence, and self
control
Arkow, P. (n.d.).Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activities. Retrieved from
http://www.animaltherapy.net/
Claims
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Healing can occur when a relationship is formed between the
two species
May be highly beneficial in addition to other treatments
 Recognized lack of research (contrary to AAT site)
Tactile features “draw a child out”
 Stimulates development of verbal communication and
other objects
Increases self confidence
 Leads to increase in willingness to learn skills at
school/home
Equine Therapy for Children with Asperger's and Autism [Animal Assisted Therapy]. (n.d.).
Retrieved from http://www.equine-therapy-programs.com/ database.
Claims
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Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy on Autism
(Video 1 of 5)
Effects of Animal Assisted Therapy on Autism
(Video 2 of 5)
Effects of Animal Assisted Therapy on Autism
(Video 3 of 5)
Effects of Animal Assisted Therapy on Autism
(Video 4 of 5)
Effects of Animal Assisted Therapy on Autism
(Video 5 of 5)
History

World War II
 Corporal William Wynn
 Wounded in
Philippines
 Smoky-Yorkshire
Terrier
 Dr. Charles Mayo
 Commanding Officer
of Hospital
 Mayo Clinic,
Rochester, MN
 Smoky-12 years as
therapy dog
Animal-assisted therapy. (2010, November 10). Retrieved from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal-assisted_therapy
History


Elaine Smith
 American nurse working in England
 Observed therapeutic effect of dogs in hospital
 1976-Created training program for dogs
Nancy Stanley
 TLZ (Tender Loving Zoo)- non-profit
 Noticed responses of disabled individuals to
animals while working at San Diego Zoo
Animal-assisted therapy. (2010, November 10). Retrieved from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal-assisted_therapy
What Does Animal Therapy
Look Like?
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Hippotherapy
 Horse may choose child
 If horse “dips it’s head” or “nuzzles” child in
passing
No standard therapeutic protocol

Golden Retriever Helps Boy Come Out of Autism - Friend
Like Henry
Equine Therapy for Children with Asperger's and Autism [Animal Assisted
Therapy]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.equine-therapyprograms.com/ database.
What Does Animal Therapy
Look Like?

Specially trained animal
and handler teams work
in close connection with
patient's, doctors, and
therapists to accomplish
specific, targeted and
measurable treatment
goals
Animal-Assisted Therapy. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.mahalo.com/animalassisted-therapy
What Does Animal Therapy
Look Like?

Therapist teaches child to
engage in the care and
handling of domestic animals
within a classroom or home
 May be taught caretaking responsibilities as
daily routines
Freeman, S. K., Ph.D. (2007). Miscellaneous Therapies: Pet-facilitated Therapy. In The Complete
Treatments (pp. 327-333). Lynden, WA: SKF Books USA, Inc.
Guide to Autism
Hippotherapy
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
Hippotherapy is a
physical, occupational,
and speech-language
therapy treatment strategy
that utilizes equine
movement as part of an
integrated intervention
program to achieve
functional outcomes
Rhythmic and repetitive
movement
American Hippotherapy Association. (n.d.). Retrieved 2007, from The American Hippotherapy
Association, Inc. website: http://www.americanhippotherapyassociation.org/aha_hpot_tool.htm
Hippotherapy
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No actual hippotherapists
Trained “therapy professionals” evaluate
appropriateness of hippotherapy on individual basis
Therapy professionals work closely with horse
handler
 Manipulate aspects of horse’s movement to
promote favorable outcomes pertaining to a
particular therapy
American Hippotherapy Association. (n.d.). Retrieved 2007, from The American Hippotherapy
Association, Inc. website: http://www.americanhippotherapyassociation.org/aha_hpot_tool.htm
Hippotherapy

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Physical Therapists-Address motor needs of each patient
 Sitting, standing, walking
Occupational Therapists-Combines effects of equine
movement with effects of equine movement
 fine motor control, sensory integration, feeding skills,
attentional skills, and functional daily living skills
Speech/Language Pathologists-uses equine movement to
facilitate the physiologic systems that support speech and
language
American Hippotherapy Association. (n.d.). Retrieved 2007, from The American Hippotherapy
Inc. website: http://www.americanhippotherapyassociation.org/aha_hpot_tool.htm
Association,
Hippotherapy
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Rowan Isaacson
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7-year-old boy with autism
Autism Therapy On Horseback, The
Horse Boy, CNN Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Talks With Rupert Isaacson
Riding Out Of Autism's Darkness
Dolphin Therapy
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Ten day treatment plan
(except Mondays)
 Half-hour sessions,
followed by dolphin
show
http://www.dolphinthera
py.eu/article.php?artic=
Tedavi
Dolphin Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.dolphintherapy.eu
Dolphin Therapy
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“…people who spend thousands of dollars for DAT
don't just lose out financially, but they put
themselves, and the dolphin, at risk of injury or
infection.” (Marino, Lori; 2007)
Dolphin "Therapy" a Dangerous Fad, Researchers
Warn
Video: The Harmony Program
Temple Grandin
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Insights from an
Autistic: Autism and
Animals
Temple Grandin
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Diagnosed with autism in
1950
Ph.D. in Animal Science
from the University of
Illinois
2005-Animals in
Translation
Temple Grandin
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Autism and Animal Relationships
 Argues that language is not a requirement for consciousness
 The normal human brain filters out environmental details that
animals and individuals with autism do not
 The worst thing you can do to an animal is make it feel afraid
 Most animals have “super-human skills” or “animal genius”
 In comparison to savants in individuals with autism
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from
tml
Animals Make us Human
Grandin, T. (n.d.). Animals in Translation. Retrieved
http://www.grandin.com/inc/animals.in.translation.h
Animal Therapy Testimonials
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“….It was completely geared towards my child. I even forgot to
bring my sons PECS and visuals and the staff had a visual
schedule and pictures to help with his program and help with his
language. It was amazing.”
“Exceeded my expectations. If anything, staff helped me see
that my son was on an even higher level than I thought.”
“The experience makes him happy, builds confidence, fosters
independence, positive emotional impact, and motivates use of
language.”
Costs
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Dolphin Therapy
 Five 40 min sessions=$2,600
 $11,800 for three weeks
 Prices do not include travel expenses and
accommodations
Hippotherapy
 One 45 min session=$135 at Special Strides
Therapeutic Riding Center in Monroe, NJ
Brakes and Williamson. (2007). Research Autism. Retrieved from Research Autism website:
http://www.researchautism.net/
autism_treatments_therapies_intervention.ikml?ra=64&infolevel=4&info=costimplications
Costs
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Pet Therapy may consist of purchasing a goldfish for
$5
Dolphin Therapy may cost nearly $12,000
Certifications
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Hippotherapy Certification Requirements According
to American Hippotherapy Association
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Mostly OT’s, PT,s and Speech/Language Pathologists
AHA Credentials - HPCS
Animal Assisted Therapies and Activities
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Certification Programs
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Harcum College in Brym Mawr, PA-Online Courses
Requirements
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$875
No prior credentials necessary
30 hr online course
10 hrs clinical observation time
1 text book
Research
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The Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy in Children with
Autism (Farrell, Erin; 2006)-Hamline University
The Effects of Animal Assisted Therapy in Children with Autism
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Purpose: to investigate AAT and autism and to see if AAT can be
used to help facilitate social communication in autistic students in a
school setting
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Rationale: by using AAT to capture the attention and motivate each
child, AAT will address the core impairments of autism by
facilitating social interaction, social communication, and social
understanding. By measuring evidence of each of these elements
when each child is receiving the AAT, and measuring in a non-AAT
environment, there will be evidence of higher social interaction,
understanding, and communication in the AAT environment.
Research
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Dependent Variables
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Social Interaction
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Social Communication
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Assessed willingness to participate via 1-5 scale
Assessed non-verbal or verbal communication: touching, pulling,
throwing a ball, etc…
Social Understanding
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Assessed facial gazing, eye contact
(Farrell, Erin; 2006)
Research
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Measurement Procedure in Regular Classroom
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Social Understanding: Facial gazing or eye contact with adult or peer
Social Communication: ASL signals, via PECS, or verbal
communication
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Initiation of communication with adult or peer
Social Interaction
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Willingness to participate teacher/observer rating
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1-Will not participate even with direction by teacher
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2-Will not participate until teacher direction
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3-Participates partially on own, partially with teacher direction
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4-Participates mostly on own, very little teacher direction
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5-Participates entirely on own, no teacher direction needed
(Farrell, Erin; 2006)
Research
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Measurement Procedure with Claire (dog)
 Social Understanding
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Social Communication
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Facial gazing or eye contact with adult or Claire
Initiation of communication with adult or Claire
Social Interaction
Willingness to participate teacher/observer rating
 1-Will not participate even with direction by teacher
 2-Will not participate until teacher direction
 3-Participates partially on own, partially with teacher
direction
 4-Participates mostly on own, very little teacher
direction
 5-Participates entirely on own, no teacher direction
needed
(Farrell, Erin; 2006)
Research
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Sessions videotaped in classroom and AAT environment
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Videotapes reviewed multiple times
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6 participants
Averaged scores of each tally
t-test conducted to measure each category for statistical
significance
Results
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Statistically significant results suggested increase in initiations of
communication with adults
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Mean score of communication with adult without AAT=6.0833
Mean score of communication with adult with AAT=11.9167
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Difference=5.8333
(Farrell, Erin; 2006)
Research
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Willingness to participate without AAT=2.417
Willingness to participate with AAT=3.5417
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Discussion
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Mean difference=1.0000
Students in a school setting are more willing to participate and
initiate communication with AAT
AAT can be used to help students with autism in many areas
There was not much room for experimental control because of
the school setting and lack of resources
More research is needed in AAT and autism, this is a
beginning
Future research can use more experimental control
Confounds???
(Farrell, Erin; 2006)
Research
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The Effect of Therapeutic Horseback Riding on Social
Functioning in Children with Autism (Bass, Margaret M.;
Duchowny, Catherine A; Llabre, Maria M.; 2009)
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Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Purpose: Examine the effects of a 12-week therapeutic horseback
riding intervention on social functioning in children with ASD.
Participants: 34 participants diagnosed with ASD
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All participants met criterion of DSM-IV
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Selected via Agency of Persons with Disabilities and University of
Miami’s Center for Autism Related Disabilities
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No prior exposure to equine therapy
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Randomly assigned to control or experimental group
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Prior exposure to conventional therapies
Research
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Experimental Group
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2 girls and 17 boys ranging from 5-10 years old
Control Group
3 girls and 12 boys ranging from 4-10 years old
Measurement Procedure
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Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS)-65 item questionnaire that
measures the severity of ASD symptoms
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Social Awareness-the ability to pick up on social cues
Social Cognition-expressive social communication
Social Communication
Social Motivation-the extent to which a respondent is generally
motivated to engage in social-interpersonal behavior
Autistic Mannerisms-the ability to pick up on social cues
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Administered to parents and teachers
Examples: “Seems much more fidgety in social situations than when alone”
and “doesn’t recognize when others are trying to take advantage of him or
her”
(Bass, Duchownly, Llabre; 2009)
Research
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Sensory Profile (SP)
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125-item questionnaire
Addresses degree to which children exhibit problems in:
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Sensory Processing
Modulation
Behavior and Emotional Responses
Procedure
 Treatment Group
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Therapeutic riding sessions: 1hr per week for 12 weeks
(Bass, Duchownly, Llabre; 2009)
Research
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Activities
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Mounting/Dismounting: verbal, step-by-step instructions
 5 min sessions
 Aimed at stimulating verbal communication, proprioception,
and vestibular processing
Exercises
 10 min warm-up exercises
 Aimed at conditioning participants for physical demands of
intervention
Riding Skills
 15 min sessions
 Aimed at stimulating sensory seeking, gross, and fine
motor domains
(Bass, Duchownly, Llabre; 2009)
Research
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Mounting
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20 min sessions
Individual/group games on horse focusing on
communication and social skills
 e.g., “Simon Says” and “Red Light, Green Light”
Horsemanship Activities
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1 hr sessions
Learned care-taking and grooming skills
Learned to identify tools
 e.g., body brush, face brush
“Physical” and “verbal” reinforcement
(Bass, Duchownly, Llabre; 2009)
Research
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Post Session Questionnaire Follow-up
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Parents completed measurements following 12-weeks of
intervention
Results
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Sensory Profile-T-tests revealed that experimental group
significantly increased from pre-test to post-test
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Control group slightly increased
Social Responsiveness Scale-T-tests revealed that experimental
group significantly increased from pre-test to post-test
The Effect of Therapeutic Horseback Riding on Social
Functioning in Children with Autism
Research
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Discussion
 experimental group improved in critical areas such as
sensory integration and directed attention
 improved social motivation and sensory sensitivity, as well
as decreased inattention and distractibility
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No change in fine motor, social cognition, and social awareness
 Longer treatment may have influenced these areas
Explanations
 The horse was reinforcing
 The horse, a novel stimulus, may have caused participants
to break away from previously sedentary routines
 “Highly structured event” may have increased focus
(Bass, Duchownly, Llabre; 2009)
Research
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Findings are compatible with view that cerebellum plays
role in both motor and social domains
“It is possible that therapeutic horseback riding, an
activity that demands motor learning skills, motor control,
and social engagement is linked to cerebellar
functioning”
“Although no measurements were used to directly
ascertain the degree of cerebellar movement, the
literature above lends support to this interpretation.”
“It is reasonable to suggest that significant treatment
effects…may be, in part, attributed to cerebellar
stimulation.”
(Bass, Duchownly, Llabre; 2009)
Research
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No info regarding medications
No info regarding other therapy schedules
Could not ascertain if “change” can be attributed to horseback
riding or confounds
Six participants dropped out of experimental group and three
dropped out of control group
A more comprehensive study is necessary to assess the
influence of the intervention on social functioning
(Bass, Duchownly, Llabre; 2009)
Research

Equine Assisted Growth and Learning
Association (EAGALA)
 Encourage all members to submit research
 EAGALA
Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, Inc. (2009).
eagala. Retrieved from Equine Assisted Growth and Learning
Association, Inc website: http://www.eagala.org/
Research

Bizubet al. (2003)
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Examined the effect of a therapeutic horseback riding
program on five adults with longstanding histories of
psychiatric disabilities
Three men and two women participated in a 10-week equine
therapy program consisting of one session per week for 2
hrs.
Each session was divided into three parts: bonding activities,
mounting skills, and post-processing group activities.
At the end of intervention, participants showed higher levels
of self-esteem, social engagement, and self-efficacy
No quantitative results available
Research

Macauley and Guiterrez (2004)
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Investigated the effect of animal-assisted therapy versus traditional
therapies on three young boys with language learning disabilities
Hippotherapy intervention lasted for 6 weeks with each weekly
session occurring for 1 hr
Each participant had specific goals that focused on increasing
receptive and expressive language, reading, and writing skills
Parents in the hippotherapy group reported an increase in
their child’s overall speech and language abilities
Results indicated that hippotherapy was more successful than
traditional therapy in improving participants’ self-concept
Fundamental Concerns


The fact that animals are used does not make an
activity a “therapy
 We use an array of materials
 Are materials therapeutic or techniques??
 Example- “toy therapy”
Animals may be reinforcers…Why???
 Animals have predictable routines
Freeman, S. K., Ph.D. (2007). Miscellaneous Therapies: Pet-facilitated Therapy. In The Complete Guide to Autism
Treatments (pp. 327-333). Lynden, WA: SKF Books USA, Inc.
Fundamental Concerns

“My child has a dog. In fact she’s
had a well-trained dog for the last
ten years and has a good
relationship with her dog. That said,
do I think that the dog has improved
her ability to socially interact with
other people and would I purchase
the dog with this expectation? Of
Course not. One thing that I’ve
noticed is that having a dog makes
people more likely to approach us
and ask her questions about her
dog. In that respect, the dog
indirectly provides her with social
opportunities. In addition, I would
use the dog as a reinforcer if I
thought that would help her
learning…”
Freeman, S. K., Ph.D. (2007). Miscellaneous Therapies: Pet-facilitated Therapy. In The Complete
Treatments (pp. 327-333). Lynden, WA: SKF Books USA, Inc.
Guide to Autism
Conclusion

Not inherently dangerous


May be reinforcing to some children


Dolphin therapy may increase exposure to
infections
May be able to teach care-taking skills
Not scientifically validated as treatment
for autism
References
Arkow, P. (n.d.).Animal-Assisted Therapy and Activities. Retrieved from http://www.animaltherapy.net/
Equine Therapy for Children with Asperger's and Autism [Animal Assisted Therapy]. (n.d.). Retrieved from
http://www.equine-therapy-programs.com/ database.
Animal-assisted therapy. (2010, November 10). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animalassisted_therapy
Animal-Assisted Therapy. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.mahalo.com/animal-assisted-therapy
American Hippotherapy Association. (n.d.). Retrieved 2007, from The American Hippotherapy
Inc. website: http://www.americanhippotherapyassociation.org/aha_hpot_tool.htm
Association,
Freeman, S. K., Ph.D. (2007). Miscellaneous Therapies: Pet-facilitated Therapy. In The Complete
Autism Treatments (pp. 327-333). Lynden, WA: SKF Books USA, Inc.
Guide to
Emory University (2007, December 24). Dolphin 'Therapy' A Dangerous Fad, Researchers Warn. ScienceDaily.
Retrieved December 2, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2007/12/071218101131.htm
Grandin, T. (n.d.). Animals in Translation. Retrieved from http://www.grandin.com/inc/animals.in.translation.html
Brakes and Williamson. (2007). Research Autism. Retrieved from Research Autism website:
http://www.researchautism.net/
autism_treatments_therapies_intervention.ikml?ra=64&infolevel=4&info=costimplications
The American Hippotherapy Association. (2007). Retrieved from
http://www.americanhippotherapyassociation.org/aha_edu_credentials.htm
Brakes and Williamson. (2007). Research Autism. Retrieved from Research Autism website:
http://www.researchautism.net/
autism_treatments_therapies_intervention.ikml?ra=64&infolevel=4&info=costimplications
References
Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, Inc. (2009). eagala. Retrieved
from Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, Inc website:
http://www.eagala.org/
Dolphin Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.dolphintherapy.eu
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