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
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