Must Love Dogs: Literature Review and Manual on Animal Assisted Therapy in Speech-Language Pathology with Adult Neurological Disorders

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  • Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) involves introducing a specially trained animal into a clinical setting to augment treatment. AAT has been incorporated into the treatment and management of individuals with a wide range of disabilities with the goals of providing emotional support and improving social functioning. Although there is strong evidence that AAT can be beneficial for many individuals, research evaluating its efficacy with adults with neurological disorders is limited. However, current research does suggest that AAT may have therapeutic value for adults with neurological disorders. According to the World Health Organization, neurological disorders encompass a broad variety of conditions resulting from diseases of the central and peripheral nervous systems. These disorders include, but are not limited to, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumours, neurological infections, traumatic disorders of the nervous system such as traumatic brain injury, and cerebrovascular diseases including stroke (World Health Organization, 2006).
    Through a review of the literature, we investigated the application and efficacy of AAT in the rehabilitation of adults with neurological disorders. We further investigated the resources and supports available in the community to implement AAT. Based on this information we drafted a manual detailing the steps involved in establishing an animal-assisted program relevant to adults with neurological communication disorders. This manual is intended to assist clinicians to incorporate AAT into their practice. Understanding how to implement an AAT program and how individuals with neurological communication disorders benefit from this therapy could contribute to improving services for adults with neurological communication disorders.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International