Therapy animals helping kids adjust

By ZHANG XIAOMIN in Dalian, Liaoning | China Daily | Updated: 2023-06-16 09:04
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A child rides a horse led by his father during an animal therapy session at the practice center of the Dalian Women and Children's Medical Group in Dalian, Liaoning province. CHINA DAILY

Medical group sets up centers to assist learning-disabled children with their social development in Dalian, Liaoning

A pediatric hospital in Dalian, Liaoning province, demonstrated the value of animals in therapy on May 31 as children interacted with two therapy dogs and two trained horses.

The activity included children who attend early education classes or receive regular health examinations, among them a number of autistic children.

The Dalian Women and Children's Medical Group, a large hospital association, established the city's first practice center to provide targeted training primarily to children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

"We hope to improve the rehabilitation system for children with ASD in Dalian using local resources," said Wang Daqing, head of the group.

The training blends resources from social groups and nonprofit associations and has been supported by the local health commission, the local disabled persons' federation, a charity organization and a number of other support groups.

When the program was launched on May 22, the hospital signed contracts with the China Guide Dog Training Center in Dalian, Dalian Laohutan Ocean Park and the Qingshan Huayuan stable and equestrian club.

According to Sun Jin, director of the group's children's health clinic, there is no specific drug to treat the core symptoms of autism. The main methods of treatment are psychological and behavioral intervention, rehabilitation training and special education.

The group has set up a dozen rehabilitation training programs offering systematic and individualized rehabilitation for autistic children.

"Through the practice center, we will regularly make it possible for autistic children to engage with therapy animals and nature and learn about different social environments," she said.

Purposeful contact with animals not only helps autistic children, but also helps children in general, as well as those with learning difficulties or poor concentration, Sun said.

She said that an estimate of the prevalence of autism in China is 7 percent and that the annual number of births in Dalian is about 40,000.

"We've found many cases of autism during the course of physical examinations," Sun said.

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