Our assistance dogs are placed with clients throughout central Florida. They are trained to help individuals with physical disabilities (other than hearing or vision impairments) and children with autism. Some of our dogs also go to facilities that utilize therapy dogs.
Clients spend two weeks of intensive “team training” to learn how to work with their dogs. The graduation ceremony at the end of each team training session – for the dogs, the clients, and the student trainers – is a perennial favorite. Our clients stay in touch with us long after graduation to receive support in building the relationships with their dogs and to share the successes and joys they encounter as they explore the wonderful partnership they form over the years with their dog.
What is an assistance dog?
Service Dogs assist people with disabilities other than vision or hearing impairment. Dogs from our program help their partners with mobility and everyday tasks. They can be trained to work with people who use power or manual wheelchairs or have balance issues. These specially trained dogs can help by retrieving objects that are out of a person’s reach, by opening and closing doors or turning light switches off and on.
Some of the ways our dogs help their partners include:
How can a dog help a child with autism?
Autism can cause severe delays in language development and communication. Those with autism may be extremely sensitive to outside stimulus and change in routines. Our dogs help manage these difficulties by providing a calming influence that reduces the child’s inclination to act out.
The dog’s “working uniform” (vest) immediately changes the public’s perception of the child and any odd behaviors. The dog can even become a conversation starter, helping create more typical social interactions. We have even seen one of our dogs coax a child with autism into playing with his siblings for the first time in his life.
What is a therapy dog?
Therapy dogs are placed with an individual who works in a school or similar setting. These dogs help motivate students, assist with physical rehabilitation and provide a calming influence and reward for students with special needs. Our dogs are also comforting companions to children who have suffered abuse or trauma, and provide that same comfort to veterans.