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How Dog Assisted Therapy helped 9-year-old Ari

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Ari loves Bazza. She adores him, and he’s there for her. Their relationship is one of mutual respect.

Ari is a 9-year-old girl. Bazza is a 3-year-old black lab. They are devoted to each other, and to learning.

Ari is creatively minded, digital art and media is her passion. She is one of the thousands of Western Australian children living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (link opens in new window) (ASD).

Bazza is a therapy dog, a star of Kites Dog Assisted Therapy.

Ari started working with Bazza midway through last year, while Bazza was still earning his stripes as a therapy dog. 

Ari’s parents, Frank and Kim watched the therapy changes unfold. 

“We can see the flow on effects in her ongoing maturity, development of personal responsibility and appropriateness of her reactions to stressors,” Kim says.

Four years ago, after her diagnosis, Ari began early intervention with a therapy provider. 

Kim noticed she “soon outgrew the school-age intervention groups” and was in search of a new, innovative way to assist with his daughter’s therapy needs.

After reading a news story about Autism Dogs, Ari’s parents were inspired and soon found out about the Dog-Assisted Therapy program at Kites Children’s Therapy.

Kites’ Dog-Assisted Therapy service uses trained Labradors to deliver creative ways for children to achieve their therapy goals. This service is conducted over 6 sessions and is focused on each child’s specific therapy goals. 

Goals and activities are varied and can include motivation for children to engage in the practice of skills, physical tasks, social skills development, self-care of others, and play and language skills.

Ari has ongoing sessions with Bazza and Kites’ trained Occupational Therapist, Brianna. Ari’s parents can see she shows a real concern for Bazza and his welfare and equally has built a mature and trusting relationship with Brianna. 

Photo of Ari smiling at camera

“The sessions give Ari an opportunity to apply her social skills and communication to both looking after Bazza, interacting with an adult as a confidante and trusted peer,” says Kim.

With the restrictions of COVID-19 in place, Kites has moved to online therapy delivery to ensure children are still able to access vital therapy sessions. 

“Bazza, our Therapy Dog, is just another tool that we can use to engage clients. It’s something a little bit different and exciting for kids. When they get to see him on screen and say hi, they all have a good rapport with Bazza,” says Kites Occupational Therapist Brianna.

For Ari and her family, the transition to online therapy has been seamless. “The shift to online therapy sessions has been very easy for Ari, and while she looks forward to all the sessions, she is longing to spend time in physical contact with Bazza once again.”

Bazza has a weekly online video series where he and therapist Brianna deliver two programs: Books and Blocks with Bazza and Bazza’s School of Fun in a creative digital format. You can find these videos on Kites Therapy Facebook (link opens in new window) page or @BazzaTherapyDog on Instagram (link opens in new window).

Read more on dog-assisted therapy or complete a referral form today.