Speech Therapy Has Gone to the Dogs
If you’ve ever owned a dog, you understand that dogs can be wonderful companions. They are loyal, fun, patient, and easy to talk to. Dogs are known to be more than man’s best friend; they’re also children’s best friend. More speech-language therapists are discovering that dogs not only make good companions – they make excellent speech therapy assistants.
For children, overcoming a speech-language disorder is stressful and not much fun. Most speech therapy is done in either a classroom setting working face-to-face with a therapist, or through teletherapy. For those who have more traditional classroom therapy sessions, the inclusion of therapy dogs helps children achieve their therapy goals.
More than Man’s Best Friend
We already know that there are a number of benefits from being a dog owner. But therapy and service dogs don’t often get the recognition they deserve for the benefits they bring to those with physical or developmental disabilities.
One study discovered that dogs can reduce anxiety in children. With this knowledge, researchers recently conducted a different study on the benefits of therapy dogs in speech therapy and discovered that therapy dogs not only reduce stress in children with language disorders but they also aid in improving language skills in children.
Active Participants in Therapy
It’s already been shown that dogs make great reading companions for children; they make wonderful audiences and patient listeners allowing children to work on their oral communication. Therapy dogs who are included in speech therapy sessions may sense a child’s stress or anxiety and calm them, while also acting as cheerleaders and give children the opportunity to practice their speech without the fear of criticism or judgment.
Therapists may enlist the dog’s assistance in working on other speech-language skills like narrative storytelling, in which children are encouraged to come up with stories and situations surrounding the dog. Children may also be more open to communication with the dog; by interacting verbally and nonverbally, using natural facial expressions when reacting to the dog, and building a trust relationship with the dog. As a teletherapist, encouraging children who have dogs as pets to “bring them” to your online sessions can encourage kids to continue practicing skills with their dogs between sessions.
The Future of Dogs in Speech Therapy
There is still much to be learned about how therapy dogs can continue to play a role in treating speech-language disorders. Some therapy dogs have received training to understand commands given by children using electronic communication devices which offers hope that not only will more studies continue but that therapy dogs can move beyond assistance in traditional speech-language therapy and move into more non-traditional speech therapy settings such as speech-language teletherapy.