Effect of canine-assisted interventions on progress in the treatment of children with expressive aphasia and physical disabilities: case study

Authors: Niewiadomska M., Stępień-Słodkowska M.

Published online: 15 January 2020

Abstract: Alternative treatment methods are increasingly used in the rehabilitation of children with disabilities. One of such methods is canine-assisted therapy, which means therapeutic classes with the assistance of a dog. The combination of therapies with educational elements has been used in the treatment of many diseases and disabilities in children. The most frequent are Down syndrome, Asperger syndrome, Autism-spectrum disorder, and cerebral palsy. The aim of this case study was to evaluate the effects of canine-assisted interventions in the treatment of a child with expressive aphasia. The study examined a girl aged 4 years with diagnosed expressive aphasia. The patient was qualified for a 5-person group participated in dog-assisted classes. The classes were held once a week for a year. The child’s progress was evaluated at the beginning of the program, and after 3, 6, 10 and 12 months. Evaluation was made on a scale of 1 to 3 points, with 1 meaning failure to complete the task, 2 – half-completion, and 3 – correct performance of the task. The following parameters were evaluated: the child’s motivation to follow the instructions, reaction time between the instruction given by the instructor and the child’s reaction, correctness of performing the exercise, the degree of satisfaction, and the child’s statements (answers to the teacher’s questions, child’s comments). All the parameters studied were significantly improved after the period of 12 months. It was found that motivation and correctness of performing the exercise were improved the fastest. The slowest improvements were observed in communication and degree of satisfaction. Analysis of the entire program of classes revealed a substantial progress made by the child. All therapeutic goals were achieved and therefore the case deserves to be presented and analysed. Spending time with a dog significantly improved the attractiveness of the classes and motivation to work, which was reflected in the therapeutic effects in the case presented.