AUGUST 07, 2014 (LINK TO PLANETDOG FOUNDATION)Paws 4 Autism Helps Kids with Autism and Their Families to Connect to the WorldBy: Ian McCracken
Paws 4 Autism is giving children with autism something very special: a 4-legged friend to connect them to the world.
Terri Wible, Executive Director and Co-Founder with her husband, Ken, of Paws 4 Autism, are providing children with autism and their families a chance to live a more fulfilling future. Their special program assists with children's peer interactions and improves their social integration in their schools and communities.
Her program, Canine Assisted Social Skills in Education (CASSIE), provides social skills training with the help of a service dog. Targeting children between the ages of six and 14, CASSIE provides a small group setting for students to play with their peers and learn how to operate in settings both in and out of the classroom.
The primary skills addressed include raising one’s hand to ask a question, keeping conversation on topic, recognizing feelings through body language, speaking with appropriate voice volume, showing good sportsmanship, and exhibiting expected classroom behaviors. Terri, a special education teacher, autism specialist, and dog trainer, knows what it takes to work with autistic children. In fact, the disorder is a very real a part of her life.
Ken and Terri’s daughter, Adriana, was originally diagnosed with Educational Autism in March of 2010. Two months later, the official medical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder was administered.
Adriana came to the co-founders through the foster care system. She suffered from attachment issues and her new parents both realized she would need additional services. Startling enough, she was not behind in her academics. In fact, she was excelling in several areas. Because of her academic success, Adriana could not qualify for additional services. What she could not control was the random displays of anger and emotion when sensory overload struck.
Refusing to accept the circumstances, Terri and her husband took the challenge head on: the idea behind Paws 4 Autism was born. Fundraising received almost immediate results with several corporations providing assistance. In no time, Paws 4 Autism was a recognized non-profit in Missouri.
Adriana’s dog, Grady, has learned to notice her elevated anxiety levels to help calm her down when outbursts may arise. Grady has also improved Adriana’s social skills, allowing her to make friends with her classmates. Read more about Adriana in the Lee’s Summit Journal.
Addressing Needs of the Future
For autistic children today, the future is often a grey area with questions concerning occupation, independence, and health. Terri and Ken, however, are opening the doors to many new opportunities.
Coupled with the CASSIE Program is the Job Skills Training Program. For those children that stick with CASSIE and graduate, they will have the option to continue on with the future program and gain canine related employment training. Students who complete the program will also receive assistance in finding paid or volunteer employment opportunities.
Areas of expertise the Job Skills Training Program addresses include technical skills for providing jobs in shelters, doggie day cares, boarding kennels, grooming facilities, and veterinarian offices. These skills and communication skills, however, can transcend the dog and animal related industries and place them in jobs that they will operate just as effectively.
Paws 4 Autism helps autistic children learn new skills, be more confident and prepares them to find a job to further their development. The Planet Dog Foundation is happy to provide them with a $7,500 grant to support the CASSIE and Job Skills Training Program.
Paws 4 Autism has several other programs to learn about that have helped children at various points on the spectrum. To learn more about our partnership with Paws 4 Autism and what we do, visit the Planet Dog Foundation page.
Posted at 10:02 AM in Assistance Dogs, Planet Dog Foundation, Therapy Dogs | Permalink