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What's in a name?

Creativity and Ingenuity in Animal-Assisted Interventions

by Esther Delisle, PhD -- President of the Canadian Institute of Animal-Assisted Interventions

As a Ph.D. student in Political science, I read Bernard Berelson's book: Content analysis in Communication Research (New York: The Free Press, 1952.) For me, the most illuminating sentence was: "In the last analysis, there is no substitute for a good idea." Methodology matters, of course, but it cannot save a worthless idea from itself.

I was reminded of that when I watched Lois Brady's video on YouTube. Lois Jean Brady is a speech therapist living in California who works with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ( A good idea in Animal-Assisted interventions requires creativity and ingenuity; in that case, it was Animal-Assisted speech therapy.

Meet Lois Brady and her Animal-Assisted Speech Intervention Partner

Did you say Buttercup? What about diadochokinetic?

The name of Lois Brady's sweet black pot-bellied pig is Buttercup. Simple, no? But that innocuous name is intertwined with a valuable speech therapy tool. It is a "diadochokinetic word," nothing less. Lois Brady expanded what she stated in the video in a message she sent me:

"Diadochokinetic analyzes the ability to make alternating speech movements. In speech therapy, we use puh-tuh-kuh to determine if an individual can make speech sounds in the mouth's front, middle and back. For younger children, we simplify the exercise by requesting that they say the word "Buttercup." Therefore "Buttercup" is a way to determine the child's articulatory abilities and practice speech sounds simultaneously."

In a Nutshell

In a nutshell: Kids are delighted to meet a carefree Buttercup. They utter his name, and the speech therapist dutifully notes each one's ability to pronounce sounds using the mouth front and middle as well as the throat. For children who struggle with one or more of these articulations, the event presents the opportunity to practice them.

Cool as a...Buttercup.

Buttercup presented other assets in Animal-Assisted speech therapy. According to Lois Brady, children with ASD will communicate physically and verbally faster with an animal than with her. It does not come as a surprise to practitioners of Animal-Assisted interventions. But a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig was an unusual sight, and it strengthened the attraction effect. Furthermore, nothing could faze Buttercup, a "preternaturally calm" animal, according to Lois Brady.

Buttercup passed away last year (2004-2022).

To read more:

About the President of the Canadian Institute of Animal-Assisted Interventions Esther Delisle is an author with a Ph.D. in political science. (

  • ​In 2004, she became a certified animal-assisted therapist.

  • She has worked with people with Alzheimer's, dementia, mental retardation and with people in palliative care (end of life)

  • ​She implemented two programs of animal-assisted learning in 3 elementary schools in Montreal. Based on that experience, she co-wrote an article published in the magazine Childhood Education International (2012.)

  • ​She sat for many years on the board of the Corporation des zoothérapeutes du Québec (Quebec Corporation of Animal-Assisted Therapists.)

  • She also participated in many international conferences on the topic of Human-Animal interactions.​​​ ​​She gave a presentation at the 14th triennial conference of IAHAIO (Paris, 2016)

  • She gave three presentations at the Second Internationale Conference on Innovations in Animal-Assisted Therapy (Jerusalem 2013)​

She is inviting you to share her journey --
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