Written by: Stephanie Fredericka, LCSW
The bond between dogs and humans is nothing shy of amazing. Any dog owner knows the amazing welcome you receive when you come home to your companion, even if only after leaving for thirty minutes! They provide unconditional love, without judgment. It is for this reason that dogs are the perfect companions to aid children who have suffered concussions.
Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in brain injuries among children playing sports. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is an estimated 3.8 million concussions per year that occur due to sports and recreational related activities. As such, there has become a growing need for services and treatment to help these athletes rehabilitate and recover from injuries ranging from mild to serious concussions. Therapy dogs are being used to aid children who have suffered head injuries, and can play a special role in their recovery. We are seeing,more often than not, the positive impact and benefits these cuddly, warm, creatures have on children. As children grow up, animals are used in children’s books and are shown in a light that makes them look easy to bond with (Reis, 2013). Children are very excited to work with dogs, which allows them to form a natural bond.
According to research, this rapid connection between human and animals is based on the ability to interact without fearing judgment (Ries, 2013). This creates a wonderful opportunity for children to engage and be motivated to engage in the therapy they need, which may include: occupational, behavioral, speech or psychical. For example, a child with a concussion may have difficulty moving his or her arm. If she is presented with a chance to pet a dog, she may reach her hand out to pet the dog without even realizing it (Rolfes, 2013). That is truly amazing! Dogs serve as an important link between the child and overcoming obstacles, which they are facing.
Of course, dogs are known for their happy go-lucky attitudes and wagging tails. This helps brighten children’s attitudes and moods, lifting their spirits! It gives children the opportunity to truly play and often forget about the therapy and goals they are working on. Clinicians are able to make significant progress with children by using the child’s trust and comfort with the animal as a tool to make therapeutic connections (Rolfes, 2013). Children are to focus on something outside of themselves while interacting with therapydogs. While helping children work to meet their therapeutic goals, they provide a helpful and positive distraction.
There are so many benefits of the use of therapy dogs. Research has shown that dogs are known for lowering stress and blood pressure (Rolfes, 2013). I believe one of the greatest benefits of therapy dogs is the positive social component they bring to working with children.
Children can feel the unconditional love that dogs radiate and many times children that are not socializing will smile or speak to a dog. A number of families have therapy dogs inside of their home to continue the benefits these dogs bring to children inside therapeutic facilities. Leaving the home may be overwhelming for a child suffering from anxiety, as a result of his or her injury. Therapy dogs bring a sense of security when outside of the home and their comfort can ease uneasy feelings from anxiety. The simple touch of petting the dog can allow the child to feel a sense of security away from home. These dogs bring so much peace for children facing adversities due to their injuries.
The Healing Power of Therapy Dogs Kristina Rolfes August 02, 2013
Kristina Rolfes August 02, 2013
The Effect of Animal-Assisted Therapy on Children with Disabilities Alison E. Ries St. Catherine University
Anxiety is a strong negative experience, and if you suffer from it, you know that it is not something you feel on some days, but it's something you feel everyday and sometimes, all day. As an anxiety sufferer myself, I know that it takes a great deal of energy to manage the anxiety, especially on the days when it peaks so high that you can't breathe.
I hope the following gives you hope that you are not alone. I hope that the following makes you realize that you are not losing your mind, or that you've lost it. The following comes from a 20 year old woman who fights with anxiety everyday. Some days, she and her anxiety can function side by side, but some days, it wears her down.
Please read and share your thoughts. And, please know that you are NOT ALONE.
Anxiety is a living hell. I didn’t sign up for this. I don’t want this. Anxiety is where you believe that everybody hates you, including your own family. You feel like you’re not loved, but when somebody does show you love, you feel like you don’t deserve it. Anxiety is having a million thoughts running through your head while you’re trying to focus on one thing. No matter how hard you try to stop the thoughts, they just keep coming and coming and they eventually take over. It’s like a bomb went off and you’re trying to calm yourself down and then someone talks to you or asks you something and you go off on them and take out your frustrations on them.
Then it makes you seem like a rude and angry person. A person no one wants to be around. Little tasks become big ones and you dread the little tasks and it takes you a whole day to accomplish them. You can’t go out in public because you think people are looking at you and judging you. You can’t get a job because you fear you’ll be judged or you won’t be a good enough employee. You don’t know what to expect. Just being around people makes you want to run and hide. In anxiety provoking situations, you can’t focus, your mind is racing, your heart is pounding, you get dizzy, your stomach knots, and all you want is to escape. When you’re in an anxiety provoking situation and you’re eating, you have trouble swallowing and you feel like you’re going to choke. You don’t want to get out of bed in the morning because you don’t know what anxiety has in store for you, so you sleep in and you seem lazy and you annoy your family because you get to sleep in and they don’t.
You are seen as irresponsible. “You are twenty years old” they say. You’re supposed to be an adult, but yet you don’t feel like one or get treated like one. Anxiety stops you from living. You’re not living, you’re existing. And it sucks. You can’t do what other adults do because the day ahead taunts and haunts you, telling you that you’re not going to make it through the day without being stressed out and anxious. So you just lay there. You lay there and do nothing all day because you know that’s when you’re least stressed and anxious. But then you get upset because you know you’re supposed to be an adult and get things done and help your family, but you’re basically just a vegetable. A vegetable of a human being you are because you do nothing. You don’t move. You’re frozen with fear of what the day will bring. Then you’re exhausted because you haven’t done anything and you’ve had way too much time to think. The thinking upsets you because you tell yourself that you’re a burden to everyone around you.
Everyone has to take care of you because you have a ball and chain around your ankle that stops you from moving and from living. You want to be able to do adult things, but you just can’t because you’re scared of the world and the people in it. Who is going to talk to you today and are you going to sound stupid? “Probably” you tell yourself. So you stay home away from the world, the world that can attack you at any minute. You don’t leave the house. You push your friend away because you can’t leave the comfort of your own home. She gets disappointed every time you turn down an invite. Eventually, that friend will go away and you’ll be alone again. You blame yourself for being such a crappy friend. You want to spend time with your friend and see her, but even she causes you anxiety. Everyone in the world causes you anxiety. So you push your friend away and you know it’s all your fault and you become upset. You’re upset because you can’t be there for your friend. Then the thoughts come racing through your head, telling you how you’ll never have friends again and even if you do, you’ll mess up those friendships too. All because of the monster that lurks inside your head. “You don’t need friends. You’ll be fine” you tell yourself.
You tell yourself that so you don’t have to dwell on the fact that you’ll be alone. You believe that you’ll die alone because you push away the people that care about you most, your friend and family. You pushing away people is a cry for help. You want the people in your life to be understanding and to be compassionate. They try their best to be there for you. You wish they were inside your head and body so they can hear the thoughts that you hear and feel the physical symptoms of anxiety. You just want people to understand what you’re going through so they can help you. But you don’t find much help because you have a hard time explaining how you feel. You find it hard to open up to people about your anxiety because you feel like you’re going to be judged or you’ll be put back in a psych ward. So you stay quiet because of your fears. Staying quiet doesn’t help you. It worsens everything. You’re anxiety becomes stronger and stronger.
You’re almost to your breaking point. You’re afraid of what’s going to happen when you reach your breaking point. Time is running out for you. You need help really soon to control this anxiety before you reach your breaking point. You’ve already given up because you believe that there is no hope and that you won’t get better. You’ve been working with the same psychiatrist for two years, but he still hasn’t found the right medication. You’ve been working with the same psychologist for nine years. She’s helped you over the course of those years and you’re not where you used to be, but you’re stuck now. You’re in a small and dark box that you can’t get out of. You’ve been in this box for about two years and no one hears your screams for help. You’re never going to be rescued. You’re stuck in this box and you’re never getting out. This isn’t a way to live; it’s a way to die.
I'm sharing another blog with Big City Moms about strategies in helping your shy child.
Eager to hear your thoughts, feedback and strategies that you've used with your own child!
Click here to read the full blog!
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles