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Transition to adulthood: The experience of youth with physical disabilities living with a service dog

By Susan Jane Modlin

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The focus of this qualitative descriptive study is the experience of physically disabled young people as they transition into adulthood while living with a service dog. The cornerstone of young adulthood is transition. For any young adult leaving home, the transition involves inter- and intra-personal changes that affect future well-being. Unfortunately, the majority of young adults with congenital disabilities are less likely to be fully employed and to live independently than their non-disabled peers. To date, very little research about living with a disability exists from the point of view of young adults. Even fewer qualitative research studies exist that focus on service dog teams. This research report will add to the body of nursing knowledge about people with disabilities and their experience of transition in the areas of health, work/school, relationships and identity. The findings result from descriptive analysis of interviews with four young adults and one parent. Using qualitative descriptive methods, the researcher identified three themes that defined the experience of transition. It’s different now contained stories regarding life before and after obtaining the service dog. This theme included elements of personality development similar to any young adult in transition, such as identifying “who I am now.” Going places was the most personal theme, describing the social implications of going or not going places and the environmental and personal barriers related to learning to drive. Calling the shots centered on the ability to make choices for themselves and the dog, as well as to participate in age appropriate milestones, such as attending college and living away from home. The findings of this study will be useful to professionals who place service dogs with persons with disabilities, rehabilitation specialists who desire appropriate interventions to facilitate transitions, and nurse researchers and clinicians who desire to understand the bond between animals and human beings.

Date 2008
Pages 172
ISBN/ISSN 9781303737503
Publisher Indiana University
Department School of Nursing
Degree Ph.D.
University Indiana University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Descriptions
  3. Disabilities
  4. Human-animal bond
  5. nursing
  6. Physical therapy
  7. Service animals
  8. transitions
  9. Young Adult