He may be a top dog at the Westminster Dog Show in New York in February, but Wyatt is already a winner in the hearts of kids with special needs. The Rhodesian Ridgeback with the sixth sense for kids is officially known as Ch. Rambo’s Gunfight at the OK Corral, and he is competing at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for the second year. When she isn’t showing him, Janice Wolfe, founder of Merlin’s Kids, and breeder from Wyckoff, N.J., also works with Wyatt to help assess the individual needs of autistic children and others.
Trained therapy dogs can make a big difference in the lives of some children with autism.
But they’re also expensive.
That’s why a local doctor is recommending some families look no further than their family dog for help.
Higgins the therapy dog is already a big help in Dr. Rolanda Maxim’s autism clinic at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.
Young patients anxious about having their height and weight measured can watch Higgins do it first.
“In the company of a dog, a child will become more relaxed, more interactive, more social, less anxious,” says Dr. Rolanda Maxim, an autism specialist at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.
Now Dr. Maxim is taking the idea one big step further.
She’s recommending select families in her practice use their own family dog to increase interaction at home.
Children with autism and people with Down syndrome were among the competitors in Sunday’s Kiwanis Equestrian Competition for Special Athletes. Most began riding horses in therapeutic riding programs. Read the LA Times story about the daylong event for riders and their families:
Cathy Sulsona lives in a world where everyone looks down on her in her electric wheelchair. Sometimes passersby look right past her, or have trouble decoding her slurred voice. They see only the cerebral palsy.
But when she climbs on her quarter horse, she rises above them.
“I feel normal,” Sulsona, 43, of Riverside said as she sat next to her horse at Hansen Dam equestrian center. “I’m not looked down on.”
Juke, a service dog, is trained to calm 10-year-Logan, who has autism, and to keep him from wandering. As you can read here, wandering is particularly dangerous near Logan’s Alaska’s home – thanks to the local bear population and the nearby Bering Sea.
XENIA — Logan Erickson pressed his nose against the airport window near his hometown of Unalakleet, Alaska.
The little boy with autism who hadn’t spoken in about seven years watched a family friend — Iditarod sled dog musher DeeDee Jonrowe — get on a plane with her dog, Miyagi. Jonrowe had been stuck there because of a storm.
“It was like the perfect moment,” said Logan’s oldest brother, Austen. “He was saying ‘Miyagi’ and Miyagi had just got on the plane. It was perfect. It was cute. It was just amazing to hear him say his word and hear him use his voice.”
Ten months later, the Ericksons were in Xenia on Tuesday at 4 Paws for Ability, a service dog training nonprofit organization.The family started 11 days of training so that Logan could get used to life with Juke, an 18-month-old golden Lab.
Through extensive study of research from leading medical schools, SpiritHorse Therapeutic has developed specific methods for treating autism through equine-assisted therapy.
These methods have been utilized in over 30,000 sessions with children with autism during the past five years.
Following a study in 2009 by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center that showed statistically “Significant Improvement” in 24 children with autism through intervention at SpiritHorse, representatives from Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, visited SpiritHorse for its spring, 2009 semester to study the results of the SpiritHorse program.
The study of 47 children with autism spectrum disorder, just released, also showed a statistically “Significant Improvement,” including nine children who, after 10 weeks treatment at SpiritHorse, measured nonautistic on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale, a single-blinded measurement.
Children with autism often make a connection with animals – especially dogs. A camp near Rochester, N.Y., lets children with autism and other developmental disabilities, as well as neurotypical children, learn about brand new puppies. The camp is run by a married couple who breed Labrador retrievers, and the wife in that couple is an autism specialist at a local school district.
SPENCERPORT — Lauren Erlichman and Martin Yesowitch might not have spent their wedding anniversary how they expected this year, but the date was memorable nonetheless.
The Canal Road couple, who tied the knot on July 7, 2007, breeds Labrador retrievers. Their canine companions made sure their anniversary was extra special — and numerically aligned.
“We had our litter this week — seven puppies on 7/7,” Yesowitch says. That was just days after helping their 4-year-old dog, Macie, deliver her pups. “We got married on 7/7/07, and we had seven puppies on the 7th with our first puppy.”
That’s pretty amazing. Then again, so is the work that Erlichman and Yesowitch do.
For the second year, the couple is running the Labs of Love Puppy Camp for children ages 7 to 15. Kids learn about training and feeding dogs, as well as health issues, caring for the animals and running a kennel.
Some children learn even more valuable lessons.
Many kids in the week-long sessions have developmental disabilities such as autism, and Erlichman, an autism specialist with the Spencerport Central School District, said the puppies help those children socialize and become more confident.
“Animals speak a non-verbal language with people,” Erlichman says, paraphrasing Temple Grandin, a noted author and speaker who has autism and whose life story was detailed in an HBO movie named for her.
“There’s no talking back. They’re more in control,” she said.
Dr. Marvin Anderson picked up a spindly legged lamb and draped it over his shoulders.
The doctor moved to Cedar around 2000; he lives on an organic farm with his wife Jill, sheep, goats, rabbits and miniature donkeys. More recently, Anderson launched a solo practice called Abba’s Place on the farm property. He deals with autism, environmental sensitivity and diagnostically challenging cases.
“(For) years, I went around with a stethoscope draped around my neck, and I’ve sort of replaced it with a lamb,” Anderson, an internist, said.
He is among several local health care providers who are incorporating animals into patient visits and treatment. The approaches range from local ranches devoted to therapeutic horseback riding and equine-assisted counseling to a visit with a bunny or donkey that Anderson can hold out “as a plum” for his young patients.
Connecting with animals is just one method Anderson can use when meeting with autistic children.
We’ve seen many touching stories about how animals – from service dogs to horses – have helped children with autism. Here’s another with a twist. The animals are living out their final years at a pet sanctuary, and the autistic girl is a volunteer. Read her mom’s comment below and then follow the link to the original USA Today story.
If you haven’t seen the photos or read the story on A Chance for Bliss, I hope you’ll find time. The animal sanctuary is a forever home for older and special need pets run by David and Deanna Bartley in Penryn, Calif. This amazing couple not only helps animals in need but also brings in people with special needs to help out with the animals and to share the joy. Here’s a comment from one of the volunteer’s parents.
My daughter was born with Autism. She works there weekly as a volunteer with the help of an adult aide. A Chance For Bliss has changed her. She has volunteered at other nonprofit organizations, but A Chance For Bliss has really captured her heart. Other special needs children and adults have benefited by helping there as well, including a group who volunteer there regularly from Easter Seals. These animals are lovingly cared for. The animals are given a forever home and treated kindly. Woody and Deanna are incredibly warm and caring. Their place is so calm and peaceful.