Independence for children with disabilities is about teaching life skills and building a foundation for life long independence. As a leader in training assistance dogs, we’re developing creative ways for our assistance dogs to transform the lives of children with disabilities. By tugging off a child’s sock, an assistance dog makes the transition to bedtime easier. Building gross motor skills and learning to take turns is fun when an assistance dog pushes bowling pins over, or plays beach ball volleyball. Doing a puzzle is no longer simply working on fine motor skills if the dog hands the child the pieces!
The work that our assistance dogs are performing with children is often much more than meets the eye. For children who have difficulty with sensory integration, being able to hold on to or pet the dog allows kids to focus. Having the warm pressure of the dog next to them in bed often helps an anxious child to sleep alone through the night for the first time.
Many children with developmental disabilities can’t distinguish an unfamiliar face from a familiar one. Imagine living in a world where every face is a cause of anxiety. However, children with these types of disabilities do respond differently to an image of a dog. A dog’s facial features are different enough to be distinguishable, and displays emotions that children can relate to.
The placement of an assistance dog changes the life of the child and the family in unique and wonderful ways. Read the story of how the Coleman family discovered the many benefits of an assistance dog.