Dog-Assisted Therapies and Activities in Rehabilitation of Children with Cerebral Palsy and Physical and Mental Disabilities

Elmaci D. T., Cevizci S.

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH AND PUBLIC HEALTH, vol.12, no.5, pp.5046-5060, 2015 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier


The aim of the present study was to evaluate dog-assisted therapies and activities in the rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy and physical and mental disabilities who have difficulties in benefiting from well-being and health-improving services. This descriptive-explanatory study was conducted in disabled children of various ages between 2008 and 2011 by an experienced team in a private training and rehabilitation center in Antalya (Turkey). In this study, five study groups were formed among the children with physical and mental disabilities. During the therapy studies, three dogs were used. For each therapy group, the goals for the children and therapist were defined, and the activities were determined according to these goals. The entire study process was followed using audio-records and photographs of patients. The expected targets were reached in all study groups. The children who experienced fear, anxiety and difficulties due to their disabilities in daily life learned to cope with their anxieties and fears, set goals and make plans to achieve their aims. During this study, the children improved their abilities to use their bodies according to their capabilities. Accordingly, they improved their ability to develop empathy between themselves and a therapy dog, to receive and present help, and to communicate. The results of the present study revealed that dog-assisted therapies and activities can be a supportive method for routine treatment procedures in the rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy and physical and mental disabilities.