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A STUDY TO EXPLORE HOW CHILDREN WITH ADDITIONAL NEEDS EXPERIENCE ANIMAL INTERACTION

Morrow, Rosie (2019) A STUDY TO EXPLORE HOW CHILDREN WITH ADDITIONAL NEEDS EXPERIENCE ANIMAL INTERACTION. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

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Abstract

This research project explored how children with additional needs experience interaction with animals. The value of animals in therapy, and related ‘green care’ approaches in health,is gathering evidence in the literature, however the use of qualitative methods is lacking. Exploring this phenomenon by gathering data directly from the children participating, rather than parents or healthcare providers, offers insight into how these practices can be adapted to suit children, especially those with additional needs. A descriptive phenomenological approach was adopted, and the project used observations to collect data. Colaizzi’s seven step process of analysis was used, in keeping with the methodological stance.

Twenty-three parents and thirty-one children participated in the study, which comprised four animal encounter experiences. Sessions were audio recorded and later transcribed, with observation notes included to add further context. The participant group was recruited from a local charity offering outdoor activities for children with additional needs. Husserl’s descriptive phenomenology was the approach used, which enabled the researcher to delve into the lived experience of the children participating and describe the phenomena in detail, as perceived by the children under study. The findings showed the children were inspired by the animal interaction to ask questions, communicate with each other and the session leader. The animals provided a sensory experience and encouraged bonding with parents. Some children experienced some difficulties with following rules and becoming distracted at times. Excitement about the animals attending was a prominent feature of the day, although some children also presented some anxiety about some of the creatures. Sharing knowledge and previous experiences, and opinions on their favourite animals, highlighted the social element of the interaction.

This research provided a useful opportunity to explore what it is about contact with animals that, according to the literature, can offer therapeutic benefits for children with additional needs. Previous research in this area has found improvements in social behaviours, communication and positive social interaction. Some physical improvements have also been found such as improved motor skills. The current study built on these findings; similar improvements were noted in the social domain, with additional findings including shows of empathic behaviour, the importance of a varied sensory experience and how including the family and others to provide a ‘shared experience’ alters the dynamic for the children participating. Using qualitative methods and exploring the phenomena predominantly from the children’s perspective is unique in this area of research and offers a valuable contribution to substantive and methodological knowledge in this field.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > RZ Other systems of medicine
Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
Depositing User: Rebecca Hill
Date Deposited: 31 May 2019 10:35
Last Modified: 31 May 2019 10:35
URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/34903

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