Materia Medica Malaysiana

August 13, 2007

Therapy offers comfort, focus to those in need

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:54 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Wong Lee Foong would lie on her back most of the time with a blank look on her face.
That all changed about a year ago when she was given a tankful of fish.
Lee Foong, 22, who has cerebral palsy and is unable to work, sit or talk, now smiles and giggles when she sees the antics of the parrot fish.
Her mother, Roxanna Lim, said she had been at her wits’ end trying to get her daughter to smile.
The change in Lee Foong’s demeanour came about after her participation in an animal-assisted therapy (AAT) programme arranged by the Malaysian Animal-Assisted Therapy for the Disabled and Elderly Association (PetPositive).
As part of Lee Foong’s therapy, PetPositive organised an outing for mother and daughter last November to a pet shop to choose their fish.
They initially opted for goldfish due to its large size and grace. However, the fish died a few weeks later.
“Lee Foong was so sad when they died. We even named the fishes. Later, the pet store workers told us that goldfish is hard for beginners to rear and recommended the parrot fish instead.”
She said her daughter’s demeanour had improved since the fish took pride of place in an aquarium next to her bed.
“She’s happier. She smiles and laughs more. She giggles whenever I feed the fish. She knows the fish belong to her and she’s proud of them.
“These improvements, although minute to normal people, are milestones to me. Her laughter and giggles are music to my ears,” Lim said.
Another person who benefited from AAT is Lee Pei Sun, 29, who said she looked forward to the weekly visit by dogs to the Beautiful Gate Foundation for the Disabled.
Lee, who suffered from spinocerebellar ataxia, said the dogs’ antics made her forget about the problems and her condition.
Spinocerebellar ataxia is a disorder characterised by slowly progressive inco-ordination of gait and is often associated with poor co-ordination of hand, speech and eye movements.
“I’ve always loved dogs and when I was little, I would hug my dog for comfort whenever I was upset with my mother. Now, the weekly visits by the dogs give me something to look forward to,” Lee said.
Tommy Leong, who has celebral palsy, said the dogs’ presence gave him a sense of comfort.
He said previously he had difficulties expressing himself, but the visits by the dogs had led to an improvement in his communication skills and made him more open.
Beautiful Gate executive director Sia Siew Chin said the residents were initially afraid of the dogs’ exuberance.
“Maybe they were not used to the presence of dogs. But they slowly opened up and I can see a relationship developing between the dogs and the residents,” she said, adding that some introvert residents had become more sociable due to the dogs’ influence.
Students Chan Chun Seng, 13, and Wong Kang Min, 15, who are in a youth rehabilitation centre, said the monthly visits of the dogs had made them less rebellious.
“I was admitted to the Victory Home three weeks ago because I was caught fighting with the boys at school. At least with the dogs, I could have mock fights with them and this allows me to release my tension,” Chan said.
Victory Home general superintendent Philip Mok said the children looked forward to the dogs’ visits.

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