National Disability Independence Day
This day commemorates the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, and this year it fell on July 27th. This week at Epsilon we support the disabled community, and explore how animals can help assist disabled individuals in living more independent lives. For more info on the ADA, click here. In this article we acknowledge all types of disabilities and focus on our beneficial relationships to animals.
Dogs are the most widely accepted working animal for the disabled, helping humans with a variety of needs. Dogs can guide the blind, help their chemically sensitive humans avoid those chemicals, and perform a variety of tasks humans are unable to do. They can be trained to use light switches, pick up dropped items, and in general assist with day to day activities. They can even detect changes in blood sugar or upcoming seizures.
Ancient Greek literature first documented the therapeutic value of riding in 600 B.C., and made it to the U.S. and Canada in 1960. For more history, click here.
Equine therapy has been used to support children and adults who have special needs or a history of trauma. It is a form of talk therapy with a licensed provider and includes interaction with horses. The therapist can give the client a goal or task such as leading the horse to a specific spot and then discussing the problem solving process and any emotional issues that may come up.
Horses large size necessitates the building of trust, while their nature of responding to riders allows for immediate feedback of the energy and action of the rider/client. Equine therapy can be used to help ADD/ADHD, anxiety, PTSD, depression, stress, behavior disorders, eating disorders, traumatic brain injury, learning disabilities, dementia, down syndrome, and more. Read more at the Anxiety Treatment Center's website.
Support for Acute Needs
Dogs, horses, and other animals can be used to comfort ill and injured people. It can be so soothing to have an animal present that many are given regular rotations in hospitals. Studies have shown that interacting with (especially touching) animals can reduce stress, elevate mood, and lower blood pressure. Some people even feel they can bring states of peace and calm to the end of life experience.