Four-legged Friends Teaching Lifeskills


If you’re an animal lover, you’ll know that being around a bundle of fur and fluff often brings about a calm that makes you forget about work, deadlines and the stresses of life. Animal interactions give us that downtime that we all need to help us regroup and refocus for the next challenge.

For people living with disability, animal therapy can prove incredibly powerful in learning how to manage behaviour, develop new skills or identify solutions for everyday problems.

Whether at work, socialising with friends or even at the grocery store, having strategies to work out the best ways to manage behaviour is a vital life lesson for everyone – even more so for those with disability. Animal therapy is also the perfect answer for people challenged by injury or age-related illness or loneliness.

Research has found that interaction with animals reduces blood pressure, stress and anxiety, and increases social and communication skills, exercise and overall happiness. Animals break down our social defences and allow us to open ourselves more to exploring interactions. Have you ever noticed that people walking their dogs tend to stop and chat with other dog walkers while the dogs sniff out their new fur-friend?

For people with special needs, tailored animal therapy programs build life experience and skill.

Leading disability service provider Afford, in partnership with Bushbred Horse Assisted Learning Programs, conducts animal therapy sessions for clients at their Cherrywood Hub in Llandilo.

The Horse Assisted Learning Program (HALP) is a unique form of learning that involves learning specialists working with a team of horses and focusing on specific learning outcomes.

Participants of the Bushbred program develop social skills through experiential and experimental interactions with horses. Throughout the program, they are encouraged to engage with horses, manage their behaviour and explore a variety of solutions for everyday social situations. The program covers topics such as grooming and feeding horses, and learning about the day-to-day care of young and adult livestock.

In a suburban setting, Afford Lifestyle Centres incorporate pet therapy into programs so that clients can meet new canine and feline pet-pals. Spending time with pets and enjoying gentle play with them gives clients many opportunities to learn more about managing behaviour, voice and gestures.

For more information about Afford’s partnership with Bushbred and how you can get involved in animal therapy, contact Afford on 1300 233 673 or visit our website.