Reading with Dogs

The first of the six sessions was challenging. Julia was so nervous about seeing 5 dogs in a room that she did not want to come in. With some gentle coaxing, she eventually sat in front of a small dog – a Brussels Griffin named Maddie. For the first time, I had the pleasure of hearing Julia read in an audible voice. She held up the book for Maddie to see the pictures. As each week progressed, Julia became more enthusiastic about reading and talking to her special dog Maddie.

It was not until the 4th session that Julia touched Maddie. She was so surprised at how soft her fur was. Maddie had to leave from the program after the 4th session so the following week, Julia chose a pit bull to read to named Ellie. This time, Julia went straight up to Ellie and introduced herself. This was a huge breakthrough because Julia has never been one to initiate social contact yet it happened without prompting.

The Story Pals program ended at the beginning of April, but Julia has never stopped talking about Maddie or how much she wants to return in the fall. She looks at her framed photo of Maddie daily. We have found a great outlet for Julia to practice her speech and reading skills and her phobia of dogs has greatly lessened. She can’t wait to get reading to her furry friends again this fall.

One of our regular speakers, Kari Dunn Buron, wrote an excellent article about using her dog Claire to help reduce anxiety in students with ASD. Have a look at her article Ms. Claire’s Excellent Adventure to learn more about how her dog was used with students at an elementary school.

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