The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 50% of mental illnesses seen in adulthood occur by age 14 (WHO, 2009). Furthermore, approximately one out of every five children has a diagnosable mental illness. Examples of mental disorders in childhood include attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), anxiety disorder which includes social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), Autism, and depression.

Children diagnosed with any of these mental illnesses may demonstrate behaviors related to difficulties with school transitions, difficulties sleeping or eating, peer or friendship difficulties, family stress and conflict or behavioral concerns. Children may also demonstrate challenges in emotional regulation and sensory processing due to anxiety or an inability to maintain their attention and focus.

Animal assisted therapy is one way in which children with a mental health diagnosis are support includes animal assisted therapy. We are very fortunate to have “Newman” our service dog who is also trained as a therapy dog and supports the children with anxiety, ADHD, OCD and Autism. Newman participates in our therapy sessions to reduce anxiety and stress, encourage interaction and reciprocal communication, and to provide a sense of calmness for children with emotional and sensory regulation difficulties.