Free Press Journal

Furr Power: How a dog can keep special children active

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Washington: Parents, if you’re looking for the latest in home exercise equipment for your children with disabilities, you may want to consider something with four legs and a wagging tail.

The family dog could serve as a partner and ally in efforts to help children with disabilities incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives, a new study from Oregon State University indicated.

In a case study of one 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and his family’s dog, researchers found the intervention program led to a wide range of improvements for the child, including physical activity as well as motor skills, quality of life and human-animal interactions.


Corresponding author Megan MacDonald noted that these initial findings indicate that it is possible to improve the quality of life for children with disabilities and get them to be more active. “And in this case, both are happening simultaneously, which is fantastic.”

The researchers detailed the child’s experience in the adapted physical activity intervention program in a case study just published in the journal Animals.

“The findings so far are very encouraging,” MacDonald said. “There’s a chance down the road we could be encouraging families to adopt a dog for the public health benefits. How cool would that be?”

The researchers also found that the relationship between the dog and the child improved over the course of the therapy as they worked together on various tasks.