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Therapy Dogs for Children With Speech Difficulties Shows Promising Results

Besides incredible companionship and being such great playmates, dogs can play an important role in our lives. Canines can help children with speech difficulties. However, this assistance may include tackling social, emotional, and communication problems.


Are you interested in getting a therapy dog for your kids? Read this piece to learn how therapy dogs can help children with medical issues that cause speech difficulties, such as Dysphasia.





Understanding Speech Difficulties in Children


If you didn't know before now, speech difficulties describe a medical condition when your child’s mouth is unable to work together to produce clear speech. When left untreated, speech difficulties make it difficult for your child to read or write. It's possible to treat speech difficulties, such as tongue tie or cleft palate, with surgery. However, most cases can be managed with speech therapy.


What Are Common Speech Difficulties?


Popular speech difficulties in children include:

  • Stuttering: When your child stutters, it may be a sign of developmental delay. This condition describes a scenario where your child's brain isn't properly coordinating speech functions.


  • Articulation errors: An articulation error occurs when your child is unable to produce certain sounds because of improper tongue positioning. They may struggle with basic articulation activities at home and in school.


  • Tongue-tie: A tongue-tie is also known as ankyloglossia. With this type of physical condition, your tongue becomes difficult to move.


  • Apraxia: Apraxia makes it difficult for you to control the muscles in your mouth.


  • Dysarthria: This medical condition makes young children slur their words. It's usually caused by brain damage.


  • Selective mutism: This is a special type of anxiety that makes it difficult or almost impossible for children to express themselves in certain conditions.


What Is the Difference Between a Speech Impediment and a Language Disorder?


It is important to note that there are clear distinctions between a speech impediment and a language disorder. Speech impediments occur when your child’s mouthparts cannot work together to produce sounds. On the other hand, a language disorder is a condition when your child struggles to understand what's being said or speak clearly.


Speech Impediment and a Child Developmental Milestone


Speech is a crucial developmental milestone in the lives of young children. Different healthcare providers have used several milestones to track speech development in young children. Every child is expected to have achieved a certain level of spoken English at different life stages. If you didn't know, a speech impediment is a popular reason your child may struggle with speech issues.


What Are the Causes of Speech Impediments?


Contrary to what many people believe, there's no single, direct cause for speech impediments. They are often caused by different underlying health conditions. Each of them has different causes and effects on the body. For example, stuttering may be due to developmental delay.


However, this condition may also be hereditary or may be due to underlying mental conditions. On the other hand, tongue-tie is a physical condition where your child is unable to separate their tongue from the roof of your mouth.


Speech impediments in your youngster may be due to any of the following underlying conditions:


  • Dyslexia: This learning disability may cause young children to struggle reading simple texts for their age grade.


  • Autism Spectrum Discorder: Children suffering from this condition may struggle to interact with others. This inability will affect verbal and non-verbal communication.


  • Loss of Hearing: Children suffering from a loss of hearing may also struggle to communicate because of their inability to process verbal feedback.


  • Cerebral Palsy: Young children suffering from cerebral palsy will have problems coordinating their hands, muscles, and speech.


What Is the Role of Therapy Dogs?


Therapy dogs have a simple purpose – to provide emotional support to their owners. It's possible to train your pet as a therapy dog whose role would be to support you and your family. These furry friends are treated as part of the family and live in homes. They're not the type of canines you confine to a cage all day.


You may also train these pets to visit other settings, including schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and hospice homes. Unlike other domesticated canines, they are docile and friendly to strangers, allowing them to get close enough for a rub or hug. Due to their training, they are patient and unbothered even when disturbed. For instance, when children tug at their fur or force them to sit in their lap.


Aside from therapy dogs, there are other therapy animals, including rabbits, horses, birds, alpacas, and llamas.


What Is the Difference Between Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs?


To avoid any misconceptions, it's crucial to make this distinction before going further. Service dogs are different from therapy dogs. Here's how:


  • More often than not, service dogs are specifically trained to perform specific tasks for their owners. These pets receive intense training to help their owners cope with certain disabilities. In the United States, there are certain laws preceded by the Americans with Disabilities Act that allow dogs to serve as companions to their owners when visiting public places.


  • Therapy dogs are also called ‘comfort dogs.’ Their role is to support the mental health of a person by satisfying their needs for attention and comfort. Due to their sweet, therapeutic demeanor, they offer great benefits to people with health challenges.


The major difference between both is that service dogs are trained for a purpose and suit certain people with disabilities, while therapy dogs are an ideal companion for several people.


However, you should note that therapy dogs are not covered by ADA regulations. So, you may need to make special provisions beforehand if you're visiting certain places. The pet must get an invite to accompany you and offer solace.


How Can a Therapy Dog Support Speech Impediments?


Extensive research has proven the effect of therapy dogs on certain mental and psychiatric health conditions. If your child has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ADHD, depression, autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder, they will benefit from interacting with therapy pets. Autism is a common cause of speech impediments in children.


The truth is most emotional challenges leading to speech challenges are caused by physical health problems. And that's why therapy dogs are a great alternative to treat these issues. The presence of these pets usually has a calming effect, making it easier for young children to express themselves.


These pets are useful for more than just speech impediments. There's clear evidence that suggests individuals suffering from post-surgery conditions or accidents may also benefit from owning a therapy animal. Interactions with these animals may boost oxytocin and reduce cortisol.


What Are the Results of Recent Research on the Effect of Therapy Dogs on Speech Difficulties?


As mentioned earlier, therapy dogs are proven to be a great fix for certain mental issues. This section will discuss the scientific evidence proving the positive effect of therapy dogs on popular speech difficulties.


What Is the Relationship Between Therapy Dogs and Developmental Dysphasia (DD)?


One of the most common speech difficulties in young children is Developmental Dysphasia. Any child suffering from this medical condition will struggle to transform their thoughts into words. Overall, the child may find it difficult to communicate properly.


A recent study compared the results of dog-aided speech therapy to conventional speech therapy in children diagnosed with Developmental Dysphasia. This experiment was supposed to prove the treatment comprising a therapy dog and speech pathologist would be more effective.


While the results of this research were not definitive, the group that relied on therapy dogs showed better results and plenty of potential to be a more effective solution. Therapy dogs were a potentially better solution for young children because they tackled symptoms of this ailment.


Due to the social interaction between these pets and their owners, they may help children open up to their peers, become more confident, and communicate effectively. If you get a therapy dog for children, it will potentially improve the quality of life.


What Is The Significance of Therapy Dogs to Autism-Related Speech Difficulties?


A child suffering from autism will very likely have communication issues. These issues may range from stuttering to selective mutism. Some autistic children may struggle to understand words and symbols and how to analyze different contexts.


In some children, you'll discover symptoms such as intentional blabbing, robot-like speech, or echolalia. However, their speech difficulties may be a result of social or physical issues.


Therapy dogs are an effective treatment for autistic speech difficulties; may be combined with sessions with a certified Speech Language Pathologist (SLP). You may also discover that various behavioral problems, including restlessness, tantrums, and anxiety, will be reduced.


All these improvements contribute to helping your child find an effective way to communicate. If your child is stressed by the therapy session with the therapist, a therapy dog may calm them down. Also, dogs are effective at calming anxious children, boosting interaction, and preventing isolation.


How Can a Dog Boost Successful Communication?


Any child struggling with expressing their feelings may have an emotional Issue. When the child constantly struggles to communicate, it may affect their motivation, self-confidence, and willingness to interact with others.


Over the long run, these children cannot build meaningful relationships with their peers and adults. Therapy dogs for children know the right time to provide emotional support. They'll never let them feel lonely and tense.


To prove how dogs can help children perform cognitive activities, a researcher studied the blood pressure and heart rate of subjects while engaged. It was noted that the presence of a furry friend was linked with a low pulse rate.


These pets make kids open to interaction and more assertive. There was further proof that the presence of pets during therapy sessions makes the specialists less scary to kids. If the therapy session becomes too intensive for the child, their pet will support them.


Several clinics and hospitals organize programs to train therapy dogs to help patients communicate better. There may be some concern that dogs don't know how to speak. However, this makes them great listeners.


Your child will have enough opportunity to practice their speech without any criticism or pressure to perform. Many therapy dog applications are with children. On the other hand, furry pets are also effective for adults.





What Type of Dogs Can Serve as a Therapy Dog?


Are you looking for the ideal therapy dog? The first thing you should know is that all breeds qualify. All they need is a bit of training - either large or small. Many large breeds, such as Standard Poodles, Retrievers, Labradors, and St. Bernards, are commonly trained as therapy dogs.


If you don't have a large living space, it's also a good alternative to choose smaller breeds, including Pomeranians and Minipoodles. However, some are more often used than others. A breed like Labrador is super gentle, and such, is a top choice.


When choosing a therapy dog, you should also consider its demeanor. However, note beforehand that your dog's temperament may depend on its upbringing and training. Before qualifying as therapy pets, they are tested for stimuli response. These tests determine your pet’s response to being picked up, loud noises, and being surrounded by equipment.


How Do You Get a Therapy Dog?


Do you have a child with speech difficulties? Do you wish to train a dog to aid their development? A good idea is to check online directories. Simply search for therapy dogs around your area and navigate through the results.


Another simple alternative is to train a pet you previously owned. Search for pet dog training around you for the best alternatives. If you're unclear about the quality of the facility, it's a good idea to phone ahead or send an email to learn about their program, including details about the acceptance procedure.


Conclusion


Speech impediments are clearly a challenge for many young children and many parents are interested in effecting solutions. Are you one of them? That's where therapy dogs come in. These pets have the ability to offer comfort and soothe emotional needs.


However, they can do so much more. There's plenty of evidence indicating the effectiveness of therapy dogs in tackling speech impediments.


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