Children with disabilities often have weaknesses in the areas of communication and socialization and a variety of actions, like preparing for everyday life, communicating with animals, listening or performing music are used to enhance their abilities in skills’ acquisition.
Occupational therapy is a way to teach the children with special needs to be as independent as possible and also their parents how to help them. A variety of specializations exist in that field: some are experts on different diseases, others work with distinct age groups and thirds use different approaches. Occupational therapy with a sensory integration approach was established by Jean Ayres for children with difficulties in sensory data processing (Schaaf & Miller, 2005).
There are different types of activities that are being improved:
– self care (eating, dressing, toileting, bathing and grooming);
– school (adapting to regular school);
– play (interacting);
– environment (participating);
– motor skills & handwriting;
This therapy was oriented initially on children with learning disabilities, but after some experiments therapists applied it on other patients (autism spectrum disorders, regulatory disorders, attention deficit disorder, fragile X syndrome).
“Dogs and humans became best friends in Europe more than 18000 years ago.”
Saey, 2013, p. 6.
That interaction between animals and people started when they were used as defenders, totems, and helpers and were an important part of everyday human life. Also pets operated as healers; nowadays this cooperation between a trained animal, patient and a therapist called animal-assisted therapy. The main goal of which is to develop social, physical and emotional functions of a person being treated (Braun, Stangler, Narveson & Pettingell, 2009).
The target population of that kind of therapy is people with physical and mental disabilities, elderly, chronically ill patients and children. The latter group is being most effectively treated by pet therapy. Animals – not only dogs, cats and dolphins, but also horses, birds and fish – could increase child’s bonds with their environment (Odendaal, 2000).
Music therapy is another way to help children to enhance their abilities and develop their social, physical and oral-motor skills. More specifically, music may facilitate communicative responsiveness in children with disabilities. In addition, music can stimulate spontaneous speech.
During therapy, all children show increased communicative responsiveness, suggesting that music therapy may be effective in increasing communicative behaviors in children with autism and severe communication impairment (Braithwaite & Sigafoos, 1998).
Considered in total, occupational, animal-assisted and music therapies may lead to increased communication among children with various special needs and to develop a lot of other skills that sometimes cannot be achieved at school .
Braithwaite, M., & Sigafoos, J. (1998). Effects of social versus musical antecedents on communication responsiveness in five children with developmental disabilities. Journal of Music Therapy, 35(2), 88-104.
Braun, C., Stangler, T., Narveson, J., & Pettingell, S. (2009). Animal-assisted therapy as a pain relief intervention for children. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 15(2), 105-109.
Odendaal, J. S. J. (2000). Animal-assisted therapy – magic or medicine? Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 49(4), 275-280.
Saey, T. H. (2013). Modern dogs originated in Europe. Society for Science and the Public, 184(12), 6.
Schaaf, R. C., & Miller, L. J. (2005). Occupational therapy using a sensory integrative approach for children with developmental disabilities. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 11(2), 143-148.