For many, physical therapy can be a chore, especially for children who routinely must come in, due to painful physical challenges. While many offices try to make the sessions fun and enjoyable, it can be hard for children to interact with adults that are comfortably pushing their physical limits. However, more and more specialists are offering a great distraction --service dogs.
For example, Diane Rampelberg's non-profit "Dustin's Paw" allows her to bring her certified service dogs to meetings to help children relax and have fun during therapy. The dogs play catch and fetch, or follow the children around as they complete components of their therapy.
The kids light up when their therapy involves playing with the dogs, blending in the exercise they need in the tasks they complete with a canine friend.
For the children, the service dogs can help make PT less intimidating or painful, since the dogs can make it more fun and distract the kids from associating physical manipulation with negativity. By having a canine partner, the kids begin to enjoy their therapy more. They will even do things for the dogs, as they feel more comfortable learning or doing things with them versus doctors or therapists. One child, Sam, said that Diane's service dog, Ovelle, learned to use a communication device with encouragement from the animal, and that continuous help led to his success.
Physical therapy therefore, is not just about the body, but also about the emotional and psychological environment that can help the body heal. Trained pets, like Diane's service dogs, can create a helpful environment for those undergoing therapy.
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