At Hanrahan Health we love pets, we even have a dedicated wall of our favourite furry friends. Not only are pets a fun member of the family but they have shown to help children and adults deal with emotional, social and communication issues. Research has shown that incorporating dogs into allied health therapy sessions may reduce behavioural problems, improve concentration and provide an individual with more motivation to communicate.

Recently, a school within regional NSW introduced a therapy dog to allow the children to focus on the dog when they were feeling agitated or anxious. Within a year, suspensions were down by almost 65 per cent and extreme incidents were down by 90 per cent. Incredibly, this highlights how a pet can play a huge part in regulating emotions and opening up communication.

So, how can you incorporate your pets when practising communication skills at home?

1. Following Instructions

Following Instructions is an important skill to practice as it focuses on understanding a message and expressing a message. A fun way to do this is to give your pet an instruction i.e., “Sit down” or follow a 2-step instruction i.e., “Give Leo the blue Kong and the green rope”.

2. Expanding Vocabulary

Depending on which animal you have at home, it is an excellent opportunity to build on vocabulary as you can talk about size, colour, actions, adjectives, categories. Such as “Leo is a big dog, he has a brown coat, he is soft”.

3. Improving Literacy Skills

Reading to your pet is a great way to increase motivation and change up the usual literacy practice routine. Reading to dogs has shown to increase relaxation and provides a safe and calm environment for children to practice their skills. Set aside 10 minutes a day to practice reading your favourite book with your pet, how fun!

4. Turn-Taking

A great way to practice social skills can be with your pet! Animals are non-judgemental support which can increase an individual to interact and play. You can use your dog’s favourite toy and take turns in activities such as playing with the ball. This type of activity can also be great to help an individual to practice asking others to play or role-playing these conversations.

5. Articulation Drills

If you have a specific sound that you may need to be doing home practice for, you can easily include your pet. Let’s say you are working on the /th/ sound – you can tell your child that they need to say ten /th/ words before throwing the ball for your pet.

To sum it up, speech therapy home practice can be very fun when you include your pets and a great motivator to get work done whilst keeping your pets engaged too!