Pet ownership has many advantages for all of us and when they aren’t causing mischief and trouble for us, they help create a calming atmosphere. As animals are a great way to improve your physical and mental health, there’s no surprise that they are becoming more common and popular to support people with disabilities and rehabilitation. We personally don’t think there’s anything better than a good cuddle with our four-legged friends!
Service animals are specially trained to perform certain tasks to help assist people in their day to day lives, whether this is assisting the blind or deaf, someone with a medical condition to alert of dangers (diabetes, allergens, seizures etc) or to assist with daily tasks for people with disabilities. For people on the Autistic Spectrum, assistance dogs are being more common to help them gain independence whilst providing the support required to get through the day. Assistance dogs are trained to notice and react to specific stimulating actions to help calm the handler, an example of these are below:
- Overstimulation within an environment – Pressure will be applied to the handler (sitting on feet, pawing etc)
- Self-harming – Behaviour will be interrupted
- Disorientation – will find specific places to take their handler
- Provide similar assistance to guide dogs – alerting to noises and obstacles
Along with dogs, horses are very beneficial in the support of people on the autistic spectrum and is popular with children. Horse riding requires your full attention, helping to develop communication, leadership and listening skills whilst creating that emotional bond to be transferred into everyday life. This therapy is beneficial for all other physical and mental disabilities due to the calming nature of the horses and the concentration required throughout the sessions to manage and ride the horses.
Having a constant companion everyday in the form of a service animal will be the most beneficial as the bonds between the handler and animal will be stronger and continuous, however having an animal at home isn’t suited for everyone. There are many local organisations and charities that provide visiting therapy and service animals throughout the world, allowing anyone who is unable to afford or keep an animal in their own home to make use of this beneficial service.
Don’t worry if dogs and horses aren’t a favourite of yours, service animals can be found in a variety of species including: cats, rabbits, birds, reptiles and even monkeys!