Everyone loves animals! We know this as more than 63% of Australians currently own a pet and up to 83% will have a pet in their lifetime. What’s more, research has shown that they are good for our health! Interested? Read on….

Compared to those who don’t have a pet, people with a fuzzy friend; recover faster from surgery, typically visit the doctor less and take less daily medications, have lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and deal better with stressful situations. WOW they are big claims to make!

So… if pets can be this beneficial to our overall health, what role could they possibly play for people with specific difficulties, say Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Selective Mutism?

We already know that dogs are useful for helping the blind or visually impaired. But have you heard of assistance dogs? Assistance Dogs increase freedom and independence, reduce reliance on human caregivers and act as a great ice-breaker, helping overcome social isolation to people living with disabilities.

As Speechies, we have a wide range of gadgets and gimmicks to keep therapy fun and engaging. You may have seen us use different tools to assist us in our therapy provision; iPads, toys, books, even food! There is growing research to support the use of animals as tools too! Take for example hippotherapy (don’t worry, no hippos involved); the use of a horse in therapy increasing coordination, balance, and motor skills. Furthermore, swimming with dolphins has been proven to help eliminate fear and anxiety, as well as increasing attention span.

I have seen first-hand how assistance dogs have helped children overcome social communication anxiety and ease transitions from the home environment to the shopping centre, or school, or the park. For some children and their families, the difference that these precious pooches make are life-changing!

Do you have a special animal in your life? What are your thoughts on the use of animals in therapy?

Check out Assistance Dogs Australia for more information.