ANIMAL-ASSISTED THERAPIES AND ANIMAL-ASSISTED EDUCATION
In order to correctly explain what Animal Assisted Therapies are, we must understand that there are two different areas of work with animals, such as AAA (Animal Assisted Activities) and IAA
The latter are in turn broken down into two different areas of intervention such as Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) and Animal Assisted Education (AAE).
By way of comparison, in order to understand the difference between the two, we will define below what AAT and AAE are.
Animal Assisted Therapy
Animal Assisted Therapy is, according to the Delta Society (USA) together with “Lincoln Therapeutic Canine Group”, a direct intervention aimed at achieving some goals, designed by a team of health professionals in the field of practice of their profession. AAT is designed to promote improvements in the physical, social, emotional and cognitive dimensions.
This therapy modality must be designed, carried out and evaluated by a person whose job is located in “education professional” or “health professional” who must know the needs of the person so that the proposed activities meet the objectives set (personal to each one) at the therapeutic level and to improve the quality of life of the student.
They can be both individual and group, but in both cases, they must be evaluated and documented in the most concrete way possible in order to appreciate the progress made in the different dimensions of each person.
Animal Assisted Education
On the other hand, Animal-Assisted Education (Acavall, F., 2012) is a a model of educational intervention in which the person who directs the sessions is not a health professional, but an education professional. The common characteristic of both types of intervention is that in both cases they use animals as a pedagogical tool to achieve the objectives previously established for each moment.
ENHANCED DIMENSIONS FROM THE AAT:
With all those interventions that are carried out with animals we seek to enhance various dimensions of the person to improve their quality of life.
The most worked dimensions are the socio-communicative, cognitive, sensory, emotional and physical/psychomotor (whose definitions we know thanks to Buil Martínez):
Socio-communicative: in many occasions the communication between children and animals is inexplicable. They motivate children to express themselves, encouraging verbal and non-verbal language.
Cognitive: reduces anxiety and stress, improves mood, improves attention, develops leisure skills, helps recognition of body schema, helps memory, favours the recognition of colours and numbers.
Sensorial: it works the vestibular system and favours the development of the senses. Animals as living beings become a very strong multisensory stimulus as they are able to capture the attention and motivation of the patient/student improving their cooperation and involvement in the therapy. They provide auditory, visual and tactile stimuli.
Physics/psychomotor: strengthening of muscles, improvement of motor skills. Improves motor coordination. Increases muscle strength. Relaxes muscle tone and helps to acquire mature patterns. Performing physical movements such as stroking, grooming, feeding and playing with a dog, provide the opportunity for fine and general motor exercise and provide encouragement to those who have affected motor skills.
Emotional: Animals can trigger fun behaviours that cause joy and laughter. Humour is known to be beneficial in improving a person’s mental state and also their physical handicaps. There have been many cases in which animals incorporated from a therapeutic point of view provoke funny situations. And laughter has an important therapeutic value. In addition, animals have a particular way of accepting people without qualifying them. They don’t stop to look at what a person is like or what things they say. Acceptance by an animal does not admit any kind of judgment. This therapy is extremely satisfactory because it generates in the users an extra motivation, that motivation and that desire with which they come to the therapies is what is needed to rehabilitate.