Updated: Feb 18, 2019
"AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) is a goal-oriented, planned, structured and documented therapeutic intervention directed by health and human service providers as part of their profession." (petpartners.org)
There are a lot of terms out there pertaining to animals and what they can do to help humans- emotional support dogs, service dogs, pet therapy, seeing eye dogs etc. So I thought it would be helpful to clarify what each title/name specifically does and how Animal Assisted therapy started at Children In Motion. By the way- all of this information can be found on the Pet Partners website www.petpartners.org
These animals are social butterflies and lovers. Not saying that the other kinds of assistive animals aren't, but it's a therapy animals job to comfort and love on us. Typically these animals have social personalities and enjoy interacting with the general public. You can find therapy animals in settings like hospitals, schools, and assisted living facilities.
Assistance Animals/Service Animals
These animals (typically dogs or miniature horses) are most likely what you are familiar with. These animals are trained specifically for people with disabilities and go through extensive training to serve their person. Some examples include seeing eye dogs for people who are blind, hearing dogs for someone who is deaf, or dogs who communicate medical alerts. These animals are considered working animals, not pets, and have access to anywhere the general public is allowed to accompany their person.
Emotional Support Animal
I've been seeing more and more of these around, and it's easy to confuse an emotional support animal with a therapy animal. Emotional support animals are specifically prescribed by a mental health professional for a person with a mental illness. These animals provide therapeutic support to their person who otherwise would not be able to do one or more major life activities without their support. Emotional support animals don't have the same access as assistance animals, but they may travel with their person on airplanes.
How did AAT come to Children In Motion?
Great question! I've been wanting to incorporate a therapy animal into my treatment plans at CIM for a very very long time, I just didn't know quite how to take the plunge... Until my girls took me to the Humane Society, and to my surprise we came home with Sadie!
Once she matured a little bit, we started training her basic obedience through an amazing obedience school named Frog to Dogs and Chris Casatelli. After about a year or so of training multiple times a week and once I completed the required handler coursework, we were ready to take our team evaluation through Pet Partners (the gold standard for Animal Assisted Therapy training)...and we passed!
Since we became officially registered, Sadie accompanies me to the clinic a few times a week and helps some of my kiddos reach their goals in my therapy treatment sessions. We also have established a reading program at the Galloway school called Bark Buddies. Incorporating animal assisted therapy into my business has been a game changer for some of my clients (and me!). If you have any interest in becoming a handler, be sure to check out the Pet Partners website here. If you are interested in hearing more about Bark Buddies, you can read more here.
So I want to hear about your animals! Who is your go to snuggler when you have a bad day? What do you love most about your pet?