Meet Our Therapy Dog Lego!

Dogs have long been used to aid and assist people with health and physical conditions. Whether as part of formal therapy via a therapy dog or in everyday assistance from a service companion. A relatively new area in assisting people with autism is training therapy dogs to work in session with the therapist and child. The therapy dogs are trained to provide comfort in therapeutic situations, as well as promote social interaction and have a calming influence on the child. In the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a review was published in which it states that children with autism were more vocal and engaged in sessions when a therapy dog is present. Other studies also showed that children were less aggressive and friendlier when interacting with the dog throughout the session. The emotional benefits and sensory interventions brought upon by the assistance of a therapy dog seem to have a positive impact on most children. Behavior intervention, redirecting repetitive behaviors, as well as calming and preventing meltdowns are just some of the ways therapy dogs assist children. It is recommended for parents of children with autism to speak with their doctor about the benefits of therapy dogs and if it aligns with the child’s needs and abilities.

Below are some of the advantages of integrating therapy dogs into sessions with children:

Social Engagement: A therapy dog can assist in motivating a child to interact with their peers, focus on a task and divert attention away from negative behaviors.

Calm During Meltdowns: In most cases a therapy dog can help reduce the severity or completely redirect the onset of a meltdown. The dog has the ability to sense the emotions of the child they are attending to and are trained to remain calm and be supportive during the tantrum.

Cognitive and Emotional Growth: Therapy dogs promote positive feelings of love and care. The child has the ability to nurture that bond with the therapy dog by touching, cuddling and hugging.

Sensory Support: A therapy dog can be trained to assist in various games and activities like hide and seek, tug of war and massage.

Reducing Repetitive Motion: A well-trained therapy dog can recognize the onset of an episode and redirect the child. Children can spend less time exhibiting repetitive movements when a therapy dog is present in session.

Improving Vocal Skills: Studies indicate that children speak more frequently when a therapy dog is around. The most significant and obvious advantage is the impact it can have in the promotion of speech.

Companionship: One of the most fulfilling roles a therapy dog fills is that of a companion to the child. The therapy dog has the ability to bond with the child quickly and help them experience friendship. This will help the child in becoming comfortable around others.