ABSTRACT: Animal Assisted Therapy with traumatised children in comunal living setting
by, 02-02-2009 at 16.49.20 (3974 Visite)
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) with traumatised children living in a comunal setting
Debra Buttram, Marcello Galimberti -, AIUCA, Via IV Novembre, 26 - Bosisio Parini (LC), Italy email@example.com A.I.U.C.A. - Associazione Italiana Uso Cani d'Assistenza , Sara Brunetti, Cristina Tarabusi - : Centro Assistenza Minori, Milano, Italy
This AAT programme was started in October 2005 with the goal to implement, and further understand, the potential of AAT programmes for children not affected by organic pathologies, but with affective-relational and behavioural problems due to early traumatic experiences. The children in question suffer profound affective deficiency and attachment disorders that often are manifested by affective and cognitive inhibition and hyperactivity.
Funding for the programme is in part by donation of a charity organisation and in part by the local provincial government.
The specific objectives of the programme are:
- to help the children to enter in contact with their own emotions, in function of their individual problems and therapeutic objectives, indivualised by health and educational professionals of centre;
- to define a more specific intervention methodology for such work.
Seven children ranging from 4 to 6 years (four females and three males),all residents of a public residential centre that hosts abandoned minors as well as minors removed by juridical decree of the courts from multiproblematic families were involved in the programme. Initialy the children were placed in one of three small groups, homogenous by age, individual particularities and characteristics of their disorders. Later we realised that individual sessions were preferable and changed to that format.
During the 40-minute weekly sessions, three professional figures are present - two female psychologists (one therapist, the other observer) and one Pet Partners® team (one 5-year old female dog/male handler and one 4-year old male dog/male handler). Each child interacts with one dog at a time according to the child’s behaviour and the objectives identified by the equipe.
The setting is a medium-sized room with a large floor mat, a large wall mirror, toys for the children and the dog, paper, coloured pencils, water, etc. During the sessions, the child is free to interact with the dog, the handler helping the child to comprehend the animal’s behaviour and comunication and offering concrete support in the dog-child interaction. The therapist interprets the actions and behaviour of the child, helping him to understand emotions that imerge. The observing psychologist collects salient elements of the interaction, subsequently elaborating them together with the therapist.
The methodology applied has proved effective and over time (the programme is still underway at the time of writing), it has been noted that the children have shown greater ability to:
- recognize and communicate their own needs, thoughts and emotions;
- differentiate between self and other;
- accept physical contact with another;
- approach the symbolic area (design, game);
- contain their aggressiveness;
- canalise their hyperactive tendencies in structured, intentional games;
- reduce behavioural isolation and affective withdrawal.
In generale, within a similar setting and utilsing a methodology as described here, we believe that traumatised and affection deprived children might form an affective relationship with an animal which can become a privileged channel through which to express trauma and interiorise therapeutic messages.
We are pleased with these results and believe that the field is deserving of ulterior work and research.
IAHAIO 11th International Conference (Tokyo, 6-9 October 2007)