It is our pleasure to share information about a unique and wonderful new program that has began here at ICAN. Project CANINE’s Connecting Canines Therapy Dog program is a not-for-profit program dedicated to offering no cost animal-assisted therapy.
The organization trains, supervises and supports volunteer human & dog teams that are certified and insured. Both the people and dogs have attended rigorous training and testing to determine that they are the perfect teams to work in our school. You may have heard or read in the past of therapy dogs that work in a variety of settings offering compassion and emotional support to individuals with special needs in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and hospice. It has been well documented via scientific research that animals are capable of bonding with humans in a way that is calm, non-judgmental and therapeutic.
In recent years, there has been a great deal of work done utilizing therapy dogs to assist children and adults with Autism. The dogs facilitate interactions, enhance cognitive and motor skills as well as stimulate tactile senses. Dogs have also been successful in motivating speech and language and encouraging social interactions. Program Director, Judi Anderson-Wright, MA Special Education, has been working with her therapy dog, Opie, for 7 years. They have had a profoundly positive impact on a number of children and youth who have Autism. Judi has worked in the area of education and services for children and adults with special needs for over 30 years. She has taught in public and private schools, at the university level and believes that her work with animal assisted therapy is the most impactful work she has ever done.
Now our Center has the opportunity to welcome this well proven therapy to our services via collaboration with Project CANINE’s Connecting Canines Therapy Dog Program and River Dog, our neighbor that is only a block up the street! River Dog offers dog daycare, professional dog training and classes including a therapy dog preparation course. River Dog Owner, Denise Stringfellow is well known in our area for her community service. River Dog currently employs two young adults who have Autism. Denise and several of her staff of professional dog trainers and their certified therapy dogs are ready to come to ICAN Center for Autism and work with us to enhance our programs. They are volunteering their service which is a primary mission of Project CANINE; offering community service via animal assisted therapy at no cost.
Here are a few important facts that will give you an overview of the program:
- All dogs are tested, certified and insured
- All people are background checked and insured
- Dogs are on leash and under control at all times
- All dogs must be groomed within 24 hours of arriving on site.
- Project CANINE begins every program with a dog safety program to teach everyone how to meet a dog including child safety specifics
- Project CANINE will offer a parent and staff orientation prior to beginning this program
- You may opt out your child by simply letting us know.
- Children with allergies can be paired with hypo-allergenic breeds.
- Children with fear of dogs and anxiety related to dogs can successfully learn how to interact with dogs via a specific conditioning program that has been highly praised by others
- Our therapist will be the person in charge of your child’s session, as always. The dogs and their human companion are there as part of the session, to aid, motivate and inspire. The dog is always under the supervision of the dog handler.