What is Dog-Assisted Therapy?
Dog-Assisted Therapy is exactly that! Therapy that uses the assistance of a trained dog to achieve specific therapy goals. Our Dog-Assisted Therapy service uses highly trained Labradors to deliver creative ways for children to achieve their therapy goals.
Who can benefit from Dog-Assisted Therapy?
Children of all ages with a range of disabilities such as:
- global developmental delay
- intellectual or learning disability
- sensory impairment
- physical disability.
Goals and activities of Dog-Assisted Therapy
- Motivation for children to engage in practice of skills (moving towards the dog or interaction with the dog is used as a reward for completing a task or skill).
- Physical tasks (turning the pages of a book, walking side by side).
- Emotional regulation – providing a calming effect.
- Social skills development (eye contact, turn-taking, listening, waiting).
- Self-care and care of others – dressing, feeding.
- Play and language skills – communicating wants and needs through words or other means.
- Pretend play – engaging the dog in imaginative play, role play, etc.
How does it work?
Our therapist will work with you to identify suitable goals for Dog-Assisted Therapy. A session usually lasts one hour and involves the child, therapist, dog and parents/caregivers.
- The service is based around specific goals – generally lasting 6 sessions in duration.
- In the initial session you and your child will be orientated to the service. Our Occupational Therapist will work with you to set suitable goals for Dog-Assisted Therapy, and your child will be introduced to our trained therapy dog for the first time.
- At the end of the program, goals are reviewed and you are provided with a summary report that can be shared with your child’s therapy team.
Dogs are not just pets during our sessions. My child, who has complex disabilities, made a unique connection with Bazza that he may not have made with a human. Even if only brief, it was inspiring to see this interaction between him and Bazza was possible.
– Lindsey and Oscar
Hi, my name’s Bazza. I’ve trained hard to become a therapy dog, and had lots of fun along the way. The best thing about my job is spending time with children. I love to see them smiling and having fun during their therapy sessions.
I enjoy playing games and especially like it when children give me cuddles or groom me – I’ve even fallen asleep a few times during a grooming session, but don’t tell anyone! When I’m not hard at work I love to spend time playing with my toys and snoozing. On a hot summer day, you’ll find me relaxing in my paddling pool.
Meet the OTs
The best therapist might have fur and four legs! Dog-Assisted Therapy provides the children we work with a new medium of therapy; a new and meaningful opportunity to interact in their own special way whether this be verbally, through sight or simply touch and being close to our special dogs. – Paige
I’ve worked as an Occupational Therapist for 15 years, with people of all ages and across a variety of areas. I feel extremely privileged to have joined the Dog-Assisted Therapy team. They say you should never work with animals or children, yet here I am working with both, and I love it! – Kate
How can I access Dog-Assisted Therapy?
VisAbility offers this service to clients through limited state-funded government therapy places. You can also access this service through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) or pay a fee for the service. We are proud to offer this innovative service to children through our centre in Victoria Park.