Author ORCID Identifier

Jessica M. Simon: https://orcid.org/0009-0004-9171-0629

Jessica McHugh: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7809-2019


Within the field of occupational therapy, animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is becoming more widely recognized and utilized as a supplement to traditional therapeutic interventions. As this area is still an emerging area of practice within occupational therapy, research is necessary to better understand the effect of AAT on children’s progress toward various goals. The purpose of this research study was to analyze the effectiveness of using Animal-Assisted Therapy to improve children's performance with and engagement in handwriting activities in outpatient pediatric occupational therapy. This study utilized a Quasi-experimental design, assigning participants to two groups. One group participated in handwriting activities while using AAT, and the other participated in handwriting activities via traditional occupational therapy. Each participant completed the Evaluation Tool of Children’s Handwriting (ETCH) for a pre-and post-test assessment. For five weeks, each child participated in approximately 15 minutes of handwriting during their occupational therapy sessions. A paired samples t-test found that pre-and post-test assessments indicated significant differences on three subtests on the ETCH for both groups respectively. Additionally, an independent samples t-test determined that both satisfaction scores and time engaged in handwriting activities were significantly different between the AAT group and the therapist-led group. The findings of this research demonstrate that progress toward handwriting-related goals can be made with consistent intervention during occupational therapy sessions regardless of the intervention techniques being used. However, using AAT can greatly increase children’s satisfaction and enjoyment with handwriting and increase the time they are willing to engage in these types of activities.