Victor Chitic, Alina S. Rusu
The European Proceedings of Social & Behavioural Sciences EpSBS Volume XVIII, Pages 101-108 (22 December 2016)
Publication year: 2016


The study investigates the dynamic of verbal and non-verbal communication in the context of Animal Assisted
Therapy for children with special needs, using ethological and sociometrical methods (i.e. focal individual
sampling, ethogram and sequential behavior analysis). The study followed the evolution of a 5-year-old boy with
mild mental retardation, ADHD symptoms and a very low level of verbalization, through one year of weekly AAT
(dog assisted therapy) sessions. Each session had an average duration of 20 min. Behavioral analysis of the video
recorded materials indicated a significant progress in speech development and a decrease of hyperactive
symptoms. The implementation of the proposed methods (focal animal sampling and Social Network Analysis)
allowed us to objectively analyze the complex interactions between the behavioral sequences, which usually can
be very difficult to be extracted in a quantitative manner. The results supported our hypotheses in terms that the
complexity of verbal communication increased throughout the five sessions of dog-assisted therapy, which were
selected for the behavioral data analysis. Nonverbal communication towards the dog and the handler was also
diversified towards the last session.