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Tyler takes to Dog-Assisted Therapy

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Taking your child back and forth between therapy sessions, school and other family commitments can be tiring as a parent, and even more so for your child.

Tyler is 11 years old and was diagnosed with autism in 2019. Since Tyler’s diagnosis, her mum Shelly has struggled to get her daughter to feel positive about therapy.

“Tyler received occupational therapy support, but she wasn’t enjoying it. It was a battle every time she saw the OT,” says Shelly.

Every Monday at Tyler’s school, a facility greyhound visits, and Tyler always looked forward to her visit. Seeing how a dog in a school environment motivated Tyler, Shelly searched for animal-assisted therapy solutions to help regulate Tyler’s emotions.

“I wanted to find something that would work for her,” Shelly explains.

Shelly enrolled Tyler in Kites Children’s Therapy’s Dog-Assisted Therapy program, which helps children to improve on specific therapy goals ranging from communication, social interaction, learning, mobility, self-care and self-management skills.

This professional, therapy-based service is supported by a growing evidence base around the effective use of dogs in therapy to engage children and meet their therapy goals.

With the help of therapy dog Bazza, Tyler focused on improving her emotional regulation.

Tyler and Bazza looking at each other, Bazza waving with his paw. In background is Tyler's twin sister Zahra watching
Tyler and Bazza looking at each other, Bazza waving with his paw. In the background is Tyler’s twin sister Zahra watching

“Tyler really connected with Bazza and learnt to take responsibility for Bazza’s needs, interpret his body language, consider his feelings, give assertive commands and ensure he had plenty of treats!” – Kites Occupational Therapist Nat.

Bazza is dependable and calm. With his presence in the therapy room, his relaxed nature sets the tone for how children can behave in his company.

“One of the areas we focussed on was Tyler’s tendency to adopt a fight or flight mode when things were getting tough in the classroom. Using Bazza, we were able to help Tyler better understand these emotions,” says Nat.

“Some children have had many years of therapy, which can feel repetitive for the child, and they may begin to disengage. We use our therapy dogs in a fun and creative ways to increase motivation and participation in therapy sessions.” – Kites Occupational Therapist Nat

“Children can also find it difficult to create rapport with therapists, so the presence of a calm and non-judgemental dog can create a special and unique environment to work towards therapy goals,” says Nat.

Kites’ therapy dogs are trained in partnership with Guide Dogs WA, the state’s leading provider of Guide and Assistance dogs. Guide Dogs WA is accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and all dogs receive highly specialised training from experienced dog instructors.

Tyler enjoyed her sessions with Bazza so much that Shelly plans on applying for another block of dog-assisted therapy to assist Tyler in understanding emotions and facial expressions.

Ready to apply for Dog Assisted Therapy? Join our waitlist and apply online using our easy referral form, call us (08) 9311 8222 or email hello@kitestherapy.org.au.