We've all experienced nerves and apprehension when it comes to public speaking- it can be very daunting and overwhelming. Well, young people are no different. Therapy dog’s can help kids who struggle with verbal communication ranging from mild speech impairments, to developmental issues like dysphasia.
Speech therapy is a traditionally recommended approach to improving communication skills in children with developmental dysphasia or impaired communication skills. For some children, learning a language can be very challenging, stressful and not much fun. But all that changes when a lovable, furry friend is involved!
Benefits of Animal-Assisted Speech Therapy
Helps children build their confidence
Enhances children’s empathy and caregiving
Provides children with the experience of unconditional acceptance
Reduces children’s fears and anxieties
Strengthens children’s sense of emotional/physical safety
Help promote positive changes in the child’s behaviour
Building friendships and a social bridge
“Children with autism and other learning difficulties can have impaired communication skills and with the help of a therapy dog, they can build their confidence up and improve their skills. Over the years, we have seen many children improve their verbal communication with one of them being Harry, our son with autism, who went from being a non-verbal child to a little man who doesn’t stop chatting! Harry still hasn’t developed total communicative language and his processing of language is significantly longer than a typically developing child, but he's progressing further than we ever imagined he would do with his Therapy dog, Bale, by his side” – Alison Bosworth
So let’s face it, dogs are natural born listeners, and because they offer these children a relaxed, non-judgemental learning environment, the young people are able to practice their verbal and socialization skills without feeling anxious. There are many ways in which dogs can help with communication skills, including some of the example’s below:
A therapy dog comes with so many excellent opportunities to build vocabulary for children. You can talk about verbs, nouns, adjective, adverbs, categories, sequences etc. Some examples can include Bale is soft. He barks loudly. His nose it wet. He is sitting. The list is endless in terms of new vocabulary. Moreover, we can also compare and contrast. For example, Bale is an animal like a cat, but he is bigger than a cat.
These kind and lovable 4-legged friends are friendly companions and good listeners who make no judgements. This makes them the perfect companion to read a book to! There’s nothing better than having a cuddly companion to practice your reading skills with especially for those with impaired communication as it provides a relaxed, no-pressure environment that allows them to read aloud to one of the many volunteer therapy dogs. Simply removing the pressure of being evaluated by an adult, allows the child to relax and focus on enjoying their book with a genuinely appreciative audience.
When the child is reading, the dog can also provide Deep pressure therapy which can help relieve stress and anxiety. What is it the science behind it? In short, it’s a hormone called Oxytocin. This hormone bonds us to our pets and is responsible for producing that sense of happiness and wellbeing in your interactions with the pet.
Games and tricks
What could be more fun than playing games and building your vocabulary at the same time! Involving the child in games and training with the dog, can help expose the child to new vocabulary as well as giving them the opportunity to interact with the dog. This can help strengthen a strong bond between the dog and child, furthering the learning of their vocabulary. We train our Therapy dog’s to play games such as Hide and seek, Tag, Ball games and other basic commands and tricks like sit, paw and high five. The child will build on their vocabulary learning new words such as commands, verbs, “find [dogs name or object]” and other words used during the games.
Interested in a therapy dog for your child, family, school or want to have a visit from one of our trained therapy dogs? Contact us via email firstname.lastname@example.org or click here and use the get in touch with us form.