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GSSWSR Publication: Research Associate Patricia Flaherty-Fischette

September 1, 2022

Family Members' Perceptions of the Philly Goat Project’s All Abilities RAMbles

Principal Investigators: Cramer, Liz; Flaherty-Fischette, Patricia; Krivit, Karen

Type of Publication: Research Study

Description: Patricia Flaherty-Fischette, lecturer and research associate at the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, was a co-principal investigator on a research study, “Family Members’ Perceptions of the Philly Goat Project’s All Abilities RAMbles,” with lead investigator, Liz Cramer (VCU Social Work) and Karen Krivit (Philly Goat Project) exploring the use of goat-assisted therapeutic activities for children with developmental disabilities at the Philly Goat Project. 

This report examines the perspectives of 19 parents of 23 children with disabilities who attended All Abilities RAMbles at the Philly Goat Project (PGP). During phone interviews, we used open-ended questions to gain insight into how parents perceived the experiences of their children living with disabilities at these monthly events. Several overarching themes emerged from the interviews. For this report, five themes are highlighted: (1) RAMbles as a positive experience; (2) RAMbles as a unique service, more beneficial than other services; (3) RAMbles as a program that offers personalization and is child-directed; (4) RAMbles as a place where children with disabilities can learn and practice skills; and (5) RAMbles as a program that offers a sense of community. Together these findings affirm the benefits of the All Abilities RAMble for child participants as well as support, and extend the knowledge from previous studies that have found Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) to be successful with children and adults with disabilities. The opportunities for children that the RAMbles provide, as described by their parents, is consistent with previous studies that found that goat-child interaction increases joy and builds skills and confidence in taking responsibility.

Recommendations moving forward suggest the program encourages peer-to-peer interaction and possibly further expands the therapeutic components of the program. This study builds on the emerging literature in AAI goat-related research and focuses on family members’ perceptions specifically, which has not been assessed in the few studies conducted on this topic.