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Canine Companions Increase Effectiveness of Speech Therapy Programs

Posted by Brian Spence on Jul 7, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Speech TherapyAnimal-assisted therapy is not a new concept. In fact, back in 1859, the founder of modern-day nursing, Florence Nightingale wrote, "A small pet animal is often an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic cases especially." Her advice is now being put to the test by speech and language pathologists across the nation who are advocating for assistance in their practices; specifically, assistance from dogs!

At Baldwin Wallace University, psychology students are training canines "to assist adults suffering from aphasia, a language disorder often resulting from a stroke or brain tumor."

These adults, despite having great difficulty with basic communication, have not lost their intellect, and the presence of a dog generated more responses or attempts as well as more smiles from all that were present.

The American Humane Society also encourages and praises the use of canine companions in speech therapy programs. They even offer awards and grants in support of such services. One reason for their on-going dedication to these programs is because they are mutually beneficial for both patient and dog. Dogs receive expert care and training to become a certified assistant to a speech and language pathologist; patients are more motivated and invested in the therapies they are undergoing simply due to the presence of an animal friend.

Experts in the field also seem to universally support the addition of dogs to most speech therapy programs.According to Lois Jean Brady, MA, CCC-SLP, "Therapy animals interact with students unconditionally, without words and in a straightforward way, creating an atmosphere that motivates them to expand their skills and strengthens their determination to persevere in spite of obstacles and frustrations." As any pet owner knows, our domesticated friends can and do communicate with us despite there being no exchange of words.

In this way, dogs offer speech therapy patients an outlet for communication without the challenges that come with verbal utterance; the ability to simply connect and relay emotions offers patients an almost indescribable joy and certainly increases their motivation. Increased motivation increases the effectiveness of the speech therapy program, and brings the patient closer to meeting his or her goals.

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