School-age children have been experiencing high levels of stress in recent years. Stress can negatively affect learning and development in kids.

A group of researchers in the UK were interested in how animal-assisted interventions (AAI) with therapy dogs could help alleviate stress in school children. The researchers studied children in mainstream educational programs as well as kids with special educational needs.

The children engaged in two types of sessions: interacting directly with the dogs and their handlers or practicing traditional relaxation techniques like meditation. There was also a control group with no interventions.

The stress hormone cortisol was tested in all the children before and after the interventions. The researchers found that the children who interacted with dogs had lower stress levels than those in the relaxation and control groups. This applied to children with and without special needs.

Over the course of a school term, the overall stress of the kids in the relaxation and control groups rose. In contrast, children in the therapy dog group didn’t show an increase in stress, even as academic pressure increased.

While not all school children have access to stress-reducing therapy dogs, AAI can be used to help children at all educational levels cope with stress in a school setting.

 

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