Animal Assisted Therapy

Ever since I was little, I knew I had to work with animals. My early childhood was spent living on my grandparents dairy farm. My grandfather always had me helping him in the farm, and I was always there for animal births and important vet visits. I was very used to the vet environment, and I was so sure that it was going to be my line of work when I got older. I even remember when I was in elementary school, when the teacher asked everyone what they wanted to be when they grew up. All the boys said they wanted to be in the NHL, and all the girls wanted to be vets. But I remember lecturing everyone about how hard of a job it is physically and emotionally. But over time, I found myself getting interested in more subjects. I discovered my love for the social studies. I became one of the founding members of my high school debate club, and was the co-chair of the school’s social justice club. I starting taking classes like philosophy, anthropology, psychology, sociology and world issues. Half way through high school, I knew that I also had to work with people. I’m now graduated from high school, and I’m taking a year off to sort some things out in my life. Next year I’ll be going off to university, and I’ll be taking psychology. I’m planning on going through to become a psychologist, and specializing in people with depression and anxiety disorders. But I’ve never lost my wanting to work with animals. One of my friend’s mother works at a therapy farm. Here, they use horses to help people who have mental, physical, and emotional disabilities to overcome their boundaries. It’s a very successful program, and I know that there are plenty other programs like it. That’s my dream. To give people the chance to heal emotionally through the help and compassion from animals. Mostly, I’ve heard of animals like cats, dogs, horses, and llamas working in the therapy industry, but I’ve heard of a couple of cases, where birds, specifically parrots, doing wonders. I’ve heard of this one woman who uses large macaws to help people cope, allowing them to build a bond with a bird and to begin gain more confidence and trust. I’ve also heard that some breeders take their baby parrots to elderly homes and hospitals.What do you think of parrots in animal-assisted therapy? The wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Assisted_Therapy

I used to maintain a credential as a therapeutic riding instructor. I guess I think any animal might be able to help some people, but I don’t have enough experience yet with birds to have a feeling for how a parrot might do as a therapy animal. I hear rats are actually excellent therapy animals, FWIW! My initial thought is that parrot-human relationships are almost as complicated as human-human relationships – much more so than other animals I’ve worked with. Training a bird might be something that would give a person confidence. I don’t know, need to think about it some more.

I don’t know much about it, but I remember reading about some parrots being used in old age homes (sorry, that is probably not the right term), and I thought that was wonderful. I truly believe parrots could be fantastic to help people rehabilitate, but also believe the bird would have to be chosen very carefully and extra socialized. I’ve read about a young autistic boy who started talking because of the strong bond he had with his parrot. It might even have been on Youtube that I saw it.If I had to start my life over, I would probably be a psychologist as well. I think that is a great choice of career.So all the best to you !

sidech wrote:I don’t know much about it, but I remember reading about some parrots being used in old age homes (sorry, that is probably not the right term), and I thought that was wonderful. I truly believe parrots could be fantastic to help people rehabilitate, but also believe the bird would have to be chosen very carefully and extra socialized. I’ve read about a young autistic boy who started talking because of the strong bond he had with his parrot. It might even have been on Youtube that I saw it.If I had to start my life over, I would probably be a psychologist as well. I think that is a great choice of career.So all the best to you !i think animals are great but it would definatly depend on the type of bird, i dont think a cockatoo screaming 12 hours a day would be very therapeutic for an elderly person

i think animals are great but it would definatly depend on the type of bird, i dont think a cockatoo screaming 12 hours a day would be very therapeutic for an elderly personNo, but I think an elderly person should be able to handle a baby cockatoo.

Actually, I think she hit the nail on the head. Having one visit for an hour or two is one thing, having one living in a nursing home…Another issue with birds and the elderly is that old people (yes, even older than I) develop very delicate skin. Any risk of biting would be unacceptable, so you’d have to choose the bird and monitor the situation very carefully.

Hi:I used to take my birds to local nursing homes. I took Phinney for several years and I took both of my cockatiels. There is a lot to say on this subject. Phinney even qualified for the Delta Society, although I didn’t renew our membership because it was expensive and it wasn’t necessary to visit with the oldsters. The link to the Delta Society is: http://www.deltasociety.org/Every bird is individual and some will be better suited for this than others. Young birds are best and this actually can be a great way to socialize them. In Phinney’s case, I took her once or twice a week for several years and she became very good at doing her tricks with a lot of distractions. It was a wonderful place to trick train because the oldsters were always glad to see us and some had dementia issues so the tricks were always new to them. Phinney is a Timneh grey. I do have to disclose that at the time that I did this with Phinney, she was clipped. Now she is fully flighted and I do think I could still do it with her…but just don’t have the time or energy to keep up with it right now. It does take a bit of special training. I took Babylon Senegal, flighted as a baby to visit in the rooms. She did rather well but as Babylon has matured, she can be temperamental. I can trust Phinney 100% not to bite. I can trust Babylon about 90% not to bite…that 10% is enough for me to decide it’s not a good idea to take her. Kiri has had a lot of training because she was Tani Robar’s bird…so these days I take her. I can also trust her 100% not to bite. In addition to this, Kiri really likes the oldsters and will lean in to give them kisses. When Tani had Kiri, she was clipped and I keep her fully flighted so I have to be extremely careful about windows and doors. Kiri will startle fly away from me so I really, really have to be careful. Phinney and Babylon startle, but they both will fly back to me so it isn’t as much of an issue with them. Your bird has to be pretty steady and not likely to startle. This can take quite a bit of training. My greys are good with the cue “It’s okay” which means, it’s okay and whatever might be making them nervous won’t hurt them. You also have to be very in tune with the bird and be willing to remove them if the situation could be hazardous or too stressful for them. I don’t let people pet my birds. Instead, we do a “wave” which charms the oldsters. It is a lot like a dog wagging a tail and will be interpreted as such. You also have to work on lots and lots of positive reinforcement. I’ll say this again. There is NO reason for people to pet your bird unless you have a cockatoo and it really likes it. Most birds don’t like to be petted and they don’t have to be petted. You can do a lot without having people touch the bird. I really think it is a lot to ask a bird to put up with that and they may learn to see the visits as being something they would rather avoid. That’s counterproductive.I actually could write an article (and have done so) about all of this…but I guess the bottomline is protect the bird if you want to do this. Go slow. Make sure that nothing happens that will cause them undue anxiety. I did make a mistake with my first cockatiel. I asked him to perch on a walker. The walkers are really slick and he slipped off. That was enough of an aversive for him that I knew I could not take him to the nursing homes any more. He just didn’t like it and it was too stressful for him. I did take my cockatiel hen for many years though.By the way, I was also in debate many, many years ago. Okay…gotta go…Fun topic.

http://www.deltasociety.org/

i know i am reviving an old topic, but i am trying to find out if the hospital i work in allows birds to be in the human animal bond program we have here.my senegal parrot LOVES being pet. she will walk over any obstacle in her way and come over and put her head on your hand, like a dog, and wait to be pet. she really is sweet. This is my first senegal, and im not sure if they are all like this, or if she will grow out of it. but she loves meeting people and being handled. we have spoken to infection control and the HAB team and they are in contact with the military vet here to see what her recomendation is. hopefully she will say yes! it would be great to bring her to work once a week!!