Gaslini’s project ‘A four-legged medicine’

Bring the simple and spontaneous serenity of horses, ponies and donkeys to health centers. This is the aim of the ‘A four-legged medicine’ project, presented on Monday 20 June in Gaslini. The animals were rescued by the association Progetto Islander Onlus, rehabilitated and included in the paths ‘Ri.abilitiamoci’, dedicated to all fragile people.

Appropriate courses will be offered in the Neuropsychiatry room according to the needs of the patients involved: with this initiative, children will be able to meet and care for the pony Arturo, the donkey Salvo and the dog Ciska, with the support of the professionals involved. the clinical field as in animal-assisted interventions. Parallel medical assessments of children and their needs and those conducted for horses will create effective synergies to transform suffering into new energies.

“Animal-assisted interventions,” explains Lino Nobili, Gaslini’s director of Neuropsychiatry, “improve the quality of life, restoring dignity to the person, ensuring opportunities for socialization, comparison and isolation. The relationship with the animal is a source of knowledge, sensory and emotional stimuli, these activities promote the value of human-animal interaction in the community, with the aim of mutual well-being.These interventions can really help us open a door to the inner world of our children, especially for a long time. -patients in term, in the care of disorders of the physical, neuro and psychomotor, cognitive, emotional and relational. and suffering (mistreatment or abandonment) and therefore have a greater sensitivity in the empathic relationship even with human frailties “.

The association Progetto Islander Onlus is responsible for saving and protecting the equine victims of abuse and neglect. In order to carry out this activity in a functional way, it is essential to plan all the aspects that make up and characterize the interventions for the protection of horses and the phases of recovery, rehabilitation, adoption in order to return the animals to psychophysical freedom. , the right of every creature.

“The Ri.Abilitiamoci project has been developed at the heart of the Progetto Islander Onlus association,” explains Nicole Berlusconi, president of the Islander Onlus Project Association. Mistreated horses are often characterized by the inability to verbalize and communicate their needs, wants, and desires.

Vanni Oddera, on the imprint of motor therapy and the benefits it brought to wards and hospitals, was the link between the Islander project and Gaslini Hospital. “I’m always looking for new ways to bring joy and distraction to Gaslini’s little patients,” says Oddera. I’ve been cycling for 6 years ”.

Animal-assisted interventions represent an innovative approach to support psychiatric rehabilitation and neurodevelopmental disorders, through the stimulation of emotional aspects and motor skills. The ability of animals, and in particular dogs, to develop a complex system of nonverbal communication with humans is the basis of their ability to act on the human emotional system.

Because many psychiatric disorders have an underlying difficulty in producing or expressing emotions, the dog is able to help with more traditional therapies through its ability to facilitate social interactions, aiding in the expression of emotions, and facilitating coping mechanisms (adaptation) to stressors.

“While the use of the relationship with the dog can be a valid help in pathologies related to mental health, in order to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, depression or loneliness, the most characteristic elements of rehabilitation equestrian – for example rhythmic motor application “. – make the horse an important help in patients with motor or postural disorders.

“The emotional relationship that is established with the horse and the strong stimulation that it causes from a sensory and cognitive point of view mean that it can be used with excellent results in neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by cognitive retardation or deficit in reading. of emotions, such as autism spectrum disorders, or in complex psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, with beneficial effects on adaptive and executive functions, ”explains Antonella Artuso, head of the Riabilitiamoci project within the Islander project.

The activities will take place on a monthly basis in the external spaces of the Institute’s Child Neuropsychiatry from July 2022 to March 2023, and will be coordinated by a referring psychologist-psychotherapist and assisted by health professionals, internal to the Department of Child Neuropsychiatry. of the Institute and operators. of the animal association and coadjutors. The person in charge of the project is Paola Cimellaro, a psychologist from Usod Psychology, with the collaboration of the Child Neuropsychiatry Unit; the collaborators are the psychologists Serena Rebora, Deborah Preiti, Maria D’Apruzzo of the Uosd Psychology with the collaboration of the UOC Child Neuropsychiatry.

Expected results and evaluation of results

An increase in emotional regulation skills is expected through the recognition and expression of emotions, an increase in the activation of processes of emotional decentralization and affective participation, and processes of metacognition, stimulating the production of thoughts related to the self. and the lived experience. Increased interpersonal skills also in the face of the consequences related to the pandemic period, by encouraging cooperation between people and the division of roles. Increased personal autonomy, self-esteem and a sense of security.

Three types of evaluation are foreseen: initial with the elaboration of a survey form that must be administered and filled in by the patient before carrying out the activities, a continuous evaluation and a final one with re-administration of the initial evaluation form. . Finally, a final evaluation of the project is foreseen through the qualitative analysis of the tools used that will be carried out in terms of effectiveness, according to the quality of the results obtained in relation to the positive effects on users and efficiency. , in relation to the resources available and the results obtained.

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