Changing dimensions in human–animal relationships: Animal Assisted Therapy for children with Cerebral Palsy

Jojo Joseph, Natasha Thomas, Aneesha Thomas

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Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) or Pet Therapy is an emerging trend in the management and rehabilitation of many conditions. It has become an area of dedicated research recently, even though tradition has always affirmed the significance of animals in promoting the health and well-being of people. In AAT, animals are involved in the therapy as a Co-Therapist. Main goal, the health professionals are not really convinced about the usefulness of this kind of therapy and the evidenced based practice in this area is extremely minimal. Hence we felt it would be beneficial to discuss various researches conducted on Animal Assisted Therapy in children with cerebral palsy (CP) and the issues and challenges associated with it. We focused on original research conducted among children with cerebral palsy. Horses (Hippo Therapy or Equine Assisted Therapy) are the most widely used animals among children with CP. Most of the studies were aimed to assess the effect of AAT in neuro rehabilitation of children with CP. Results indicated improvement in motor areas such as Gross Motor Functioning, re-establishing muscle symmetry, improving trunk stability, postural control, balance, gait, range of motion, functional skills, ADL, strength, co-ordination, and muscle tone. It also revealed significant improvement in psychological variables such as cognition, attention, concentration, memory self-esteem, emotional well-being and social interaction, but we noticed a scarcity of literature in the paediatric population and most of the articles are anecdotal in nature. Nevertheless, in the United States and Northern Europe, this kind of therapy has begun to be implemented in a regulated and systematic way to deliver concrete results.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-62
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Child Development and Mental Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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