Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Communication Sciences and Disorders

First Advisor

Lissa Power-deFur, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Second Advisor

Michele L. Norman, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Third Advisor

Shannon Salley, SLP.D., CCC-SLP


Purpose: The precise beneficial role of animals to serve as facilitators or incentives for human communication has received limited attention to date in the field of communication sciences and disorders (CSD). This study addresses the need within the field of communication sciences and disorders for qualitative research that focuses on the use of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) by speech-language pathologists . The researcher aimed to answer the following research question: What are speech-language pathologists' practices and perspectives pertaining to animal-assisted therapy? The researcher hypothesizes that the data from this survey research study will indicate patterns worth further analysis through single subject and/or group experimental research designs.

Methods: The researcher of this study used an online questionnaire to collect data related to animal-assisted therapy utilized by speech-language pathologists. Participants : Participants were solicited from the Speech-Language-Hearing Association of Virginia's (SHAV) membership. From the 728 SHAV members contacted, only 116 individuals (6 males and 110 females) were included in this study as they responded to the email asking for 15 minutes of their time. Procedures: First, Longwood University's Institutional Review Board approval was obtained. Next, the researcher contacted the SHAV president to ask for permission to send out this study's questionnaire to all SHAV members. Then an email, describing the study, informing the participants of their informed consent, and holding the link to the SurveyMonkey® questionnaire, was sent to the SHAV office to be distributed electronically to its members. A reminder email with a hyperlink to the questionnaire was also sent out to all participants one week prior to the mission deadline. Once the submission deadline had passed, the researcher entered all the data from the questionnaires into IBM SPSS 19.0.0 for sorting and analysis.

Materials: A questionnaire consisting of 21 items, including: demographic, yes/no, checklist format, Likert Scale format and open-ended questions, was constructed by the researcher using SurveyMonkey® and used for this study. Analysis: All data was input into IBM SPSS Statistics 19.0.0 (2010). Data from 18 of the 21 survey questions included on the questionnaires were analyzed to identify themes, relationship s, and meaningful patterns within the data. The researcher ran the frequencies of occurrence responses that included percentages . The narrative responses were analyzed qualitatively for themes, relationships and meaningful patterns.

Results: With regards to SLPs' practices pertaining to AAT, 3.4% of participants currently utilize AAT and 13.8% utilized AAT in the past. Dogs, followed by horses, are the animals most commonly utilized by SLPs for AAT. The CSD areas that AAT has been most commonly utilized within by speech-language pathologists are social aspects of communication, expressive and receptive language and cognitive aspects of communication. The preschool and child populations are the client populations that AAT has been utilized most commonly within by speech-language pathologists. The disabilities/disorders for which speech-language pathologists have utilized animal­ assisted therapy most commonly are speech or language impairments, followed by autism, developmental delay, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities and TBI. The most commonly reported manners in which animal-assisted therapy has been utilized by those speech-language pathologists who currently utilize AAT, and those who utilized.



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