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How non-traditional therapies are helping kids overcome pandemic anxiety

Animal therapy
Posted at 11:19 AM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 14:19:22-04

Answers to questions we had about how the pandemic affected kids are finally coming to light, and they show across the board kids are having a more difficult time learning social cues and regulating their emotions.

A series of studies published by Ofsted found education providers noticed delays in the development of speech and language in young children. Some also found babies struggled to respond to basic facial expressions, which they said could be due to reduced social interaction amid COVID lockdowns.

Some education providers said kids lacked confidence in group activities, while toddlers and preschoolers needed help in learning to share and take turns.

“We’re going to see the ramifications of this for years and we’re going to have to continue to look at that from an epigenetic perspective: how does this impact generations after this?” said Jessica Pfeiffer, a school psychologist. “Ways that we would typically regulate were not as accessible- regulating in the form of engaging in relationships was taken away for quite a bit of time for kids. It’s now a lot for a kid to sit still, to be able to focus, to have attention, because they’re more dysregulated.”

Pfeiffer works with the group Intricate Roots, a Colorado-based therapy center that uses non-traditional modalities to try and help kids feel more comfortable expressing the emotions they feel.

The practice uses animal-assisted therapy and art therapy among other types to achieve this. Studies show the pandemic led to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and developmental delays in kids of all ages.

“The reason that non-verbal modalities of therapy are very efficacious is their brain is still forming, so they don’t have a fully formed pre-frontal cortex at this point,” said Christine Ratcliffe, an art therapist at Intricate Roots. “You’re able to go back to these places and process rather through words, because there were no words at that point. We’re processing through imagery, and image processing you can deepen through metaphor.”

“I think it’s really rewarding for everyone,” added Maggie O’Connor, an animal-assisted therapist at the center. “I see clients when they’ve built really strong relationships with animals and how rewarding it is for both the animal and them to come and see each other and interact.”