Document Type

Special Project

Degree Name

Master of Science in Education


Professional Studies


Special Education

First Advisor

Jeong-il Cho, PhD, Chair

Committee Members

Jeong-il Cho, PhD, Chair, Phyllis J. Agness, EdD, Jane M. Leatherman, PhD

Date of Award



This paper explores the idea of incorporating the use of animal-assisted therapy in special education classes with the intent to increase student confidence and the use of social skills. For hundreds of years, across cultures, people have placed value on animals. Doctors and physicians are noting the benefits of animals as more than just service animals, but also social benefactors. Service animals are individually trained to assist a person like a "seeing-eye dog" where a therapy animal is trained to provide a certain population of people with positive therapeutic interaction. This paper examines a variety of research-based studies and programs available to special educators who may be interested in developing an animal-assisted therapy program in their classroom. A needs assessment was conducted using a survey designed to gain special education teachers' perspective and knowledge of the necessary materials and support to make such a program happen. The results of the needs assessments were used to develop a handbook titled as "Animal-Assisted Therapy in the Special Education Classroom". The handbook will help educators determine how to safely set up and implement an animal-assisted therapy program.


Special Education and Teaching