Julian talks about the Love Dogs all the time. He now sees them twice a week and in between sessions he talks about them and looks forward to seeing them. This conversation has become a vehicle for his speech and language therapists to elicit words and emotion from him.
But it can also become a distraction and keep his focus from other things they need to accomplish.
Finding the right balance between utilizing the power of the dogs and his growing friendship with them and not having them interfere with his other therapies is something to tackle.
Julian is fortunate to have a family that observes everything he does and is very good about reporting what he has said and experienced. He also has an outstanding team of physical, speech and other therapists who welcomed the dogs into their sessions and understand how best to guide what we do so it does not become a negative distraction. Every session he moves closer to being able to focus and listen and respond and think and speak independently.
Sometimes we sit there just in awe of what Julian can do or the clear thoughts that come out of his mouth! Where did that come from we ask ourselves. Sometimes he expresses very clearly a thought such as “I want to hold Benny,” or “I don’t want Benny there,” or asks “How is Kirby?” Sometimes he comprehends new concepts such as “Pet Benny soft or pet Benny harder,” and he does.Sometimes he shrinks back because the dog got too close and sometimes he inches closer.
And always the concentration is on how this remarkable team of specialists can help this one child and while opening the door for the dogs to participate in his care plan, not let them become a distraction that takes him off course.
When you work in AAT (animal assisted therapy) as the dog’s handler you are there to facilitate and work towards the goal of the professionals. It is critical that the right animal and the right human volunteer be selected for each assignment.
Every session Julian and his team teach me something new.
Every session Julian’s bond with the dogs deepens.
Every session reinforces how important it is to work as a team to accomplish a common goal.