Examining the Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy
By Grant Martin
Mia enjoys a visit to the Bell Center, where she visits each week to work with children suffering from cerebral palsy.
Mia Rowe is a master motivator. Even though she’s only five years old—and her conversation is limited to barks and licks—Mia has a gift for encouragement that transcends age and language. In her presence, physically challenged toddlers forget their pain and start to run, while shy readers learn to speak out and enjoy a good book.
Mia and her sister Stella are Cavalier King Charles spaniels belonging to Jan Rowe, Dr.O.T., an associate professor of occupational therapy in the UAB School of Health Professions. Together, the three volunteer through Hand-in-Paw, a Birmingham affiliate of the Delta Society, which is the leading international resource for animal-assisted therapy and activities.
“Most people are familiar with service animals and the types of assistance that they can provide, but there are many other ways that animals assist in therapy,” Rowe says. “Animals can get through to people when other methods have failed.”
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Spring 2010 issue of UAB Magazine Now Online
Was Shakespeare really Shakespeare? Could the big chill help heart attack victims? Is there any way to stop cancer's spread? UAB experts tackle these questions and other conundrums in UAB Magazine’s new Spring 2010 issue, which also features digital children, sight-restoring computer chips, and a new use for the South's least-favorite vine.
Also in this issue:
• An inside look at UAB's new Women & Infants Center
• UAB tests a promising HIV vaccine
• Student researchers track mosquitoes with satellites, make music with photocopiers
UAB Alumna Finds Magic in Math
By Dale Short
Dilhani Uswatte uses innovative methods to help students understand mathematics.
Pop quiz: What do creative dance, geometry, a quarterback sneak, and a video documentary all have in common?
If you’re a student of UAB School of Education alumna Dilhani Uswatte at Berry Middle School in Hoover, the answer is a four-letter word: math. Uswatte’s mission as a teacher, she says, is to help kids see the infinite connections between everyday life and a subject that many of us can’t bear to think about. Her energetic approach to math education has already earned her a prestigious national teaching award and induction into the Alabama Teacher Hall of Fame.
“I believe the traditional way of teaching math was not the best way to lead to understanding,” Uswatte says. “Most of it was rote and memorization, as if answering 30 questions on the same concept could make it somehow ‘stick’ in a student’s mind. But then, the problem was to take that concept and apply it to the real world, which is altogether different.”
The new trend in math, Uswatte says, takes the opposite approach. “Begin with a problem in the real world; the cool part is that so many kids have an immediate gut reaction as to where to start. So the teacher’s job is to build on that intuition. Afterward, you can teach the details that make the solution more efficient, but so often, the basic problem-solving skills are already there.”