Since 2010 our institution has offered several hours of dog-assisted therapy every week, held in differentiated groups.
Dog therapy uses the strong bond between animals and human beings as an integrated part of the development process. The dog addresses the student on every level: emotional, social, motoric and cognitive.
Activity types in our group sessions
- Activating speaking and communication skills. Improving interpersonal skills, verbal and nonverbal communication, developing both active and passive vocabulary, as well as initiative skills;
- Stimulating somatic and tactile responses;
- Activities for developing visual-tactile integration;
- Developing motoric responses for tactile, visual and acoustic stimuli;
- Visual tracking exercises;
- Fine motor skills activities;
- Stimulating vestibular balance;
- Developing cognitive skills;
- Improving social interaction.
Priority goals and tasks during therapy:
- Creating a fun and open atmosphere;
- Constant motivation, using the dog as a motivating partner always present during therapies;
- Promoting self-generated movements, relieving spasms, relaxation, and muscle relaxation using the dog;
- Initiating and keeping contact with the dog, the assistance personnel, the therapist, and their peers;
- Improving communication and self-expression skills;
- Improving active and passive vocabulary;
- Increasing their knowledge about animals and the responsible ownership of an animal, and some useful tools for them; providing experience-based and fun learning during the therapy;
- Developing self-knowledge and confidence, as well as the ways of cooperate with the dog, with adults and with their peers.
The dog will certainly have an effect on the student, since it urges them to make contact, while also generating emotional reactions. Due to the stress-relieving effect of directly being in contact with the dog, it normalizes temper, blood pressure, respiratory and pulse rates, thereby making the student more relaxed and calm. It makes the spasmodic muscle cramps relieve, heightening their attention. They get to experience things they could never experience in everyday life. The therapy helps them develop self-knowledge and self-competence by allowing severely disabled children experience what it is like to provide for an animal, to comb its hair, to make them obey, etc. This way they finally can take care of someone, instead of only being taken care of.
The dog’s presence has a motivational effect on the students: they unconsciously start to take an active part in the activities, just for fun, while also developing their own focusing ability – being motivated to learn, they get better results. During our group sessions, we give very close attention to establishing and improving emotional intelligence, a feeling of security and equilibrium.
Throughout the years, the collaborating specialists have become a well-functioning therapeutic team, formed by the special education teacher, the conductive education teacher, therapy dog trainers, and special education assistants.