Faculty Publication: Research Associate Patricia Flaherty-Fischette
Parents’ Perceptions of the Philly Goat Project’s All Abilities RAMble: A Qualitative Study of Animal-Assisted Intervention for Intellectual and Developmental Disorders
Authors: Patricia Flaherty-Fischette, Jenée Lee, Yvonne D'Uva-Howard, Elizabeth P. Cramer, Karen Krivit, Sarah Meehan
Source: Developmental Disabilities Network Journal: Vol. 3: Iss. 2, Article 11.
Type of Publication: Article
Abstract: Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are a growing population. Considering the wide diversity in IDD and the financial burden of traditional treatment modalities, Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) has emerged as an innovative and non-traditional treatment for individuals with a range of disabilities, including individuals with IDD. To the authors’ knowledge, the present study was one of the first to explore a goat-assisted therapy experience for children with IDD. This study explored the experiences of 23 children with the All Abilities RAMble – a goat-assisted therapeutic activity offered by the Philly Goat Project (PGP). Key themes in our study included the RAMble activating joy, RAMble as a place to practice skills, RAMble as a unique service providing transferable skills, RAMble as a personalized and child-directed program, and RAMble providing a sense of community. This research provides valuable insight into the child’s experience with goat-assisted therapy, which can inform future goat-assisted therapy interventions for children with IDD. The results suggest there are several positive impacts from the All Abilities RAMble, further supported by the literature on AAI and IDD. Additionally, the emergence of social skill(s) and communication skill development, transferability of acquired skills, and sense of community prompted provided strength in this exploratory inquiry of this specific form of AAI. Goat-assisted therapeutic activities, such as the PGP All Abilities RAMble, is an opportunity to practice skills and develop relationships that are often under-examined in this specific population. This study demonstrates the need for more empirical research on goat-specific AAI with children with IDD, and their families. Future research recommendations include exploration of siblings and parents’ experience at the RAMble and further inquiry into what contributes to outdoor or nature-based programming beneficial to people with disabilities.