Our youngest member of the Swan Centre is Otis, a trained therapy dog. Otis socialises with all the children and is involved in specific therapy sessions during targeted interventions. He lives with Becky, our Head of Centre and comes to school on specific days.
Research has found that children with ASC may benefit socially, emotionally and cognitively through interaction with a dog:
Animals within schools stimulate social integration and social competence of children, e.g. increase social approach behaviours and social skills.
Animals can act as a focal point helping children to engage in an activity developing attention and listening.
Playing with or stroking an animal can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which helps to calm and relax people resulting in lower blood pressure and heart rate.
Increases self-confidence and self-esteem by providing an outward focus, enabling people to focus on their environment and talk or think about the animals.
Providing opportunities for increased communication, e.g. asking and answering questions, commenting, increasing vocabulary.
Animals may provide opportunities to develop gross motor skills, e.g. walking, running, throwing and balance, as well as help develop fine motor skills through grooming or feeding, e.g. brushing, scooping food.
Children and adults who interact with animals may benefit physically through higher levels of activity and greater fitness, e.g. walking the dog.