Gaëlle Frias

Research interests

Attention deficit, hyperactivity, dyslexia, school bullying and family challenges are the daily life of more and more children. Those problematics generates classroom dysregulation, and the number of children requiring specific support keeps growing. The most common way to keep children in the school system is pharmaceutical medication. Once medication’s side effects have been revealed, parents and teachers were looking for alternative treatments. Specific training classes opened, and new therapies to improve social skills came up. Animal-assisted activity is one of them, and it is used in a lot of different areas and ways. It has been proved to have a massive positive impact on patients with an autism spectrum disorder, university students facing stress or children diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder).

The goal of my study is to determine what emotions are experienced by children when they interact with animals. For this purpose, I collaborate with Evelyne Gaze Stauffacher, a teacher who uses the interaction with animals during her support classes. I based my study on the six basic facial expressions described by Paul Ekman, which are surprise, fear, disgust, anger, happiness and sadness. I observe the children during their class and record their facial expressions when they interact with the different animals of the Structure Huskiesport. Based on the previous studies on animal-assisted activities, I expect happiness to be the most frequent emotion in children after a few sessions of interactions.