Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are a growing population. Considering the wide diversity in IDD and the financial burden of traditional treatment modalities, Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) has emerged as an innovative and non-traditional treatment for individuals with a range of disabilities, including individuals with IDD. To the authors’ knowledge, the present study was one of the first to explore a goat-assisted therapy experience for children with IDD. This study explored the experiences of 23 children with the All Abilities RAMble – a goat-assisted therapeutic activity offered by the Philly Goat Project (PGP). Key themes in our study included the RAMble activating joy, RAMble as a place to practice skills, RAMble as a unique service providing transferable skills, RAMble as a personalized and child-directed program, and RAMble providing a sense of community. This research provides valuable insight into the child’s experience with goat-assisted therapy, which can inform future goat-assisted therapy interventions for children with IDD. The results suggest there are several positive impacts from the All Abilities RAMble, further supported by the literature on AAI and IDD. Additionally, the emergence of social skill(s) and communication skill development, transferability of acquired skills, and sense of community prompted provided strength in this exploratory inquiry of this specific form of AAI. Goat-assisted therapeutic activities, such as the PGP All Abilities RAMble, is an opportunity to practice skills and develop relationships that are often under-examined in this specific population. This study demonstrates the need for more empirical research on goat-specific AAI with children with IDD, and their families. Future research recommendations include exploration of siblings and parents’ experience at the RAMble and further inquiry into what contributes to outdoor or nature-based programming beneficial to people with disabilities.

Plain Language Summary

Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are a growing population. There are many therapies used to support individuals with IDD. Traditional therapies can be expensive, time consuming, and lack a sense of community. Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) are creative and non-traditional treatments. AAI offers treatment options for many populations, including individuals with IDD. The Philly Goat Project (PGP) offers the All Abilities RAMble. The All Abilities RAMble is a goat-assisted therapeutic activity for children with disabilities. This study explored the experience of 23 children who participated in the RAMble. We interviewed 19 parents of children who participated in the RAMble. We found five themes. The first theme is that the RAMble activates joy. The second theme is the RAMble is a place to practice skills. The third theme is the RAMble is a unique service and offers skills the child can use in different settings. The fourth theme is the RAMble offers personal treatment. The fifth theme is the RAMble builds community. There is a need to explore more goat-assisted therapies for individuals with IDD. Future research should consider the family's experience at the RAMble.

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