Date of Award
Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)
Dr. Jessica McHugh
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT), handwriting, occupational therapy (OT), pediatrics, dog
Within the scope of pediatric occupational therapy, Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a new and emerging area of practice that has shown to have a positive impact in its use with pediatric clients specifically. AAT is formally defined as, “a form of therapy that includes the presence of and/or interaction with an animal to facilitate progress toward some therapeutic goal” (Hardy & Weston, 2020, p. 197). Through the completion of this Capstone, the student aimed to develop in-depth clinical practice skills related to using AAT within pediatric occupational therapy, develop professional leadership skills, and contribute meaningful research regarding the benefits of using AAT to improve handwriting skills. The in-depth clinical practice goals were achieved through the completion of continuing education, observation, and documentation notes, creating an AAT Intervention Toolkit, an educational resource, and posts for social media. Additionally, two oral presentations were given, an OT Practice Magazine article was written and submitted, and application materials were prepared for AOTA Inspire 2024. Additionally, a research study was completed that aimed to analyze the effectiveness of using AAT to improve children's performance with and engagement in handwriting activities in outpatient pediatric occupational therapy. This project demonstrates that AAT is especially beneficial for pediatric clients, enhancing motivation, engagement, active participation, and so much more. As AAT is an emerging area of practice within occupational therapy, there is still a great deal of work to be done to advocate for its continued expansion, as well as continuing to build the body of research. AAT has the potential to effectively supplement traditional occupational therapy intervention, create a positive environment for children in therapy, and positively affect the progress made in a variety of goal areas.
Simon, Jessica M., "Kids and Canines: PAWSitively Impacting Occupational Therapy Outcomes" (2023). Occupational Therapy Capstone Presentations. 89.