Animal Assisted Therapy

What is Animal-assisted Therapy?

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) incorporates specifically selected and trained animals into goal-directed therapeutic intervention plans that are designed to promote improvement in physical, cognitive, psychosocial, behavioral, and/or emotional functioning. Here at Tumble N’ Dots, the process is guided by Dr. Phoebe Yam, OTD, OTR/L, CPDT-KA, C-HAIS, a licensed Doctor of Occupational Therapy, dog trainer, and human-animal interaction specialist who has over 5 years of experience working with a dog professionally selected, socialized, trained, and evaluated for participation in AAT.

Potential Benefits of AAT

When something is interesting and meaningful, a person is more likely to engage. For those who enjoy dogs, the incorporation of AAT into traditional occupational therapy sessions can facilitate improved attendance, participation, and interaction, which leads to progress in typical occupational therapy (OT) goal areas.  

  • Improved sensory integration
  • Improved self-regulation
  • Improved fine and gross motor skills
  • Improved motor planning
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Improved participation in ADLs & IADLs
  • Improvement in communication
  • Development of social-emotional thinking skills
  • Increased ability to recognize emotions
  • Building rapport and trust
  • Positive relationship development
  • Improved problem-solving
  • Improvement in cooperation and motivation
  • Increase in attention and impulse control
  • Improvement in organization of behavior

Animal Assisted Therapy in Irvine, CA

Our Specialized Animal Assisted Therapy Approach

Our AAT program serves children who display any of the following sensory-based behaviors:

Our AAT approach is all about creating a warm and inclusive environment where kids can thrive. If you’re looking for a holistic and enjoyable therapy experience for your child in Irvine, CA, look no further than our pediatric therapy clinic. Together with our therapy animals, we’re here to support your child’s growth and development, one paw at a time. 🐾

Get To Know

Frequently Asked Questions

Curious about our Animal Assisted Therapy program? Here are some common questions and answers to help you understand how our specialized approach can benefit your child.

  1. Dogs have their own natural defenses. While we do everything possible to prevent an injury, it is possible that someone may get scratched or mouthed, even unintentionally.
  2. Dogs play and show affection by licking and nibbling. There is a risk for light mouthing. Licking is discouraged to decrease risk factors.
  3. Zoonotic disease transmission (i.e., parasites, bacteria, viruses, fungus, etc.) is a risk of participating in AAT. Dogs are on monthly preventatives and participate in regular veterinary care.
  4. Dogs may still have primitive reactions to environmental stimuli and the actions of people. This includes: mouthing, not being able to take treats with a gentle mouth, slobbering on people, licking, snapping, or scratching.
  5. Animal communication vocalizing includes barking, howling, growling, whining, etc.
  6. Dogs have been screened by a veterinarian before commencing work in AAT. Dogs are up to date on their vaccinations and receive regular and routine veterinarian care. Dogs also receive monthly oral preventatives for internal and external parasites. The risk of disease transmission is small.
  7. Risk for an allergic reaction is present when working with dogs and/or products used with dogs (i.e., dander, pollen on fur, saliva, food/wheat/peanut butter treats, latex toys). Please let us know if you have any allergies to dogs, foods, or products.
  8. Dogs use their body to communicate and may brush against, lean into, or jump onto a person. Other body language such as tail wagging or body wiggling may occur. Such behaviors create a risk for loss of balance, falling, or light bruising.
  9. Dogs also use their voice to communicate. Dogs may bark and startle a child who has auditory sensitivities.

Currently, we include dogs in our animal assisted occupational therapy sessions. 

AAT can benefit children by promoting emotional, social, and physical development. It can reduce anxiety, improve communication skills, enhance motor skills, and boost self-esteem. The presence of therapy animals often makes therapy sessions more engaging and enjoyable for kids.

Absolutely, our therapy animals are carefully selected and trained to work with children. They are accompanied by experienced handlers who ensure the safety of both the child and the animal during therapy sessions.

AAT can be beneficial for many children, but the suitability depends on the child's individual needs and goals. We conduct an initial assessment to determine if AAT is an appropriate addition to their therapy plan.

Parent involvement is encouraged, especially for younger children. It can help extend the benefits of therapy beyond the clinic and strengthen the bond between the child and their family.

Yes, there is a growing body of research that demonstrates the positive impact of AAT on children's development and well-being. Our clinic integrates evidence-based practices into our AAT approach.