Date of Award

Spring 5-2024

Document Type

Oral Presentation/Poster


Health Science

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Moses Ikiugu


animal-assisted therapy, occupational therapy, pediatrics, children, healthcare, motivation, social participation, emotional well-being

Subject Categories

Occupational Therapy


The use of animals to assist in the healthcare industry has been around for some time now, however, only recently have those in the occupational therapy industry begun looking at the effects that it would have on patients within their scope of practice. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) has various uses, and recent studies have shown that the use of dogs within a healthcare setting can greatly increase patient motivation and well-being. However, prior literature shows that there are limited studies on the effects of AAT in a pediatric occupational therapy (OT) setting, specifically an outpatient setting. My capstone project aimed to determine whether the incorporation of AAT into a pediatric OT outpatient setting would have a positive effect on the participants’ social participation, motivation, and emotional well-being. Through the careful combination of volunteer therapy dog teams into pediatric OT sessions, this allowed for the treating OT and occupational therapy student to focus on the therapeutic goals of each participant and stay within the occupational therapy scope of practice, while incorporating a therapy dog to increase motivation, social participation, and emotional well-being. There were seven total participants with various intellectual and developmental disabilities who received AAT services – five males and two females – and each received AAT services either monthly or bi-weekly. Interventions were varied depending on each participants’ individual goals – fine motor, bilateral coordination, social participation, etc. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was administered to parents pre-and post-implementation of AAT services. I used a nonparametric paired samples t-test to determine whether there was an improvement in the adolescents’ overall strength and difficulties. As well as completing a Wilcoxon’s Signed Ranks test to determine changes in perceived areas of emotional problems, conduct problems, hyperactivity/inattention problems, peer problems, and prosocial behavior. There were no significant changes from pre-to post-implementation based on SDQ findings, however qualitative data suggests an increase in social participation, motivation, and emotional well-being.



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