November 2, 2021

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by: admin

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Tags: Autistic, Brave, Dogs, kids, Meet, Therapy, Working

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Categories: autism

Meet The Remedy Canines Working To Assist Autistic Youngsters Be Courageous

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but it turns out they’re pretty good therapists too.

That’s the founding premise of Raising Hope Dogs, a nonprofit that was founded by a dog trainer and occupational therapist who trains dogs in therapy for children with autism.

But Raising Hope Dogs, founded in 2015, does more than just use dogs to help autistic children practice life skills. It also gives rescued dogs the chance to become working dogs with an important task.

Photo: Facebook / Raising Hope Dogs

Raising Hope Dogs co-founders Karen Rice and Wendi Faircloth came across this formula for success almost by accident in 2013 when Rice (the occupational therapist) hired Faircloth (the professional dog trainer) to train their new pup.

But the therapist also saw how her young patients – struggling with mobility, speech, emotional regulation, and other problems related to autism – reacted to their new dog at work. Whenever Wendi and the dogs were around, Karen’s young patients were more concerned with the task at hand.

“The kids got ready to make a real effort to do a task they would normally allow the environment or the requirement of the activity to finish,” said Karen, who recognized that therapy dogs can help autistic children – who do it are easily overwhelmed by external stimuli – face their fears and be brave.

Raising Hope Dogs co-founders Karen Rice, Wendi Faircloth and “founding dog” Secret. Photo: Facebook / Raising Hope Dogs

Now, Karen has seen this formula for success many times throughout her career. A 4-year-old patient was selectively silent because he was frequently misunderstood and hated repeating himself to others in his busy foster home, which affected his speech development. But the kid didn’t mind repeating himself to Frisco, the border collie / service animal who became one of the “founding dogs” of Raising Hope.

“This kid repeated the same prompt four or five times, getting louder and louder each time, because when the dog understood and did what the child asked, it lit up its face,” Karen said, remembering how to work with Frisco has helped build the child’s linguistic confidence.

Photo: Facebook / Raising Hope Dogs

Another example concerned an 8-year-old boy who was so overwhelmed at school that he had to wear latex gloves. “He just couldn’t even handle touching the world,” Karen said. But although the child usually wore gloves when outside his house, he forgot his fears when he met Frisco, who impressed him even more with her talent for fetching toys.

“Joshua was just amazed at the fetching process,” Karen recalled. But even though the child wanted to play, tossing the toy would mean touching dog drool, which he was afraid of. But Frisco and Wendi (who helped by wiping the toys on their pants) nearby inspired the boy to take a risk.

Co-founder Wendi Faircloth and “founding dog” Frisco. Photo:

“The first or second time he touched [the toy] but then he’d have to run to the bathroom to wash his hands, ”Karen said. But at the end of the session, Joshua stopped wiping his hands on Wendi’s pants. Shortly after meeting Frisco, the child even stopped wearing his gloves. “It wasn’t just the impact of that moment,” said Karen. “It changed his daily life outside of this session.”

Puppies-in-training. Photo: Facebook / Raising Hope Dogs

Now Raising Hope Dogs has grown into a registered non-profit organization with 9 experienced working dogs from different backgrounds. Some dogs are rescued. Others are “pre-rescued,” as Karen calls them, describing dogs donated by community members who would otherwise bring them to the shelter. Other dogs were donated by breeders.

But regardless of their history, Raising Hope Dog’s graduates have one thing in common. They have all gone through 18-24 months of rigorous training to develop the skills to work with autistic children, either as an autism support dog or as a therapy animal in a therapist’s office. Many puppies also participate in the Hope Dog Challenge, a community sports program that gives autistic children the opportunity to practice their physical, mental, emotional, and social skills with team-building Frisbee games.

Raising Hope Dog Jeep was paired with a therapist upon graduation. Photo: Facebook / Raising Hope Dogs

When Raising Hope Dogs first started, Karen worked with Secret, another “founding dog” of Raising Hope, who taught the therapist how to be a dog handler. Now Karen is working with Dandy, who has proven to be an equally cute and capable therapy assistant. In fact, the therapy dog ​​recently inspired a teenager to walk without a wheelchair.

Photo: Facebook / Raising Hope Dogs

“If we’re together without the dog, he won’t even get out of his wheelchair,” said Karen, whose 14-year-old patient has conversion disorder, a rare condition that makes him think he can’t eat or talk, or go unaided. But when Karen took Dandy to her patient’s complex, the teen surprised his therapist by getting out of his wheelchair to play with the dog on the floor.

“He stands up, he will walk around the block with Dandy by his side,” said Karen, who was shocked by the sudden agility of her patient. “It’s all about hanging out with Dandy and not about this imaginary need to be in a wheelchair.”

Photo: Facebook / Raising Hope Dogs

Raising Hope Dogs recently moved to larger property in Flower Pot, Arizona, a small town about an hour’s drive from Phoenix. The move has made more room for Raising Hope’s growing numbers of dogs and puppies in training – many of whom have difficult backstories, much like the low-income kids they work with. “They are so human-like in their limits,” explains Karen, how the dogs have mastered their personal challenges through courage and hard work.

These include Secret, a spirited puppy who grew up to be one of Raising Hope’s best therapy dogs, and Dandy, the clumsy puppy who now inspires wheelchair patients to walk. Frisco – Raising Hope’s “first and best therapy dog” – dealt with rapidly progressing cancer in old age. Another Raising Hope dog, Rebel, overcame an aversion to transition surfaces.

Raising Hope Dogs Rebel and Secret also mastered personal challenges. Photo: Facebook / Raising Hope Dogs

“It’s just something very special, unique,” ​​says Karen of the symbiotic relationship between the dogs and children who inspire each other to be courageous. “It’s not just kids and dogs,” she said. “It’s the highly skilled working dogs and it’s the kids with these really extreme challenges. It’s just something special that has developed here over time. “

Learn more about raising Hope Dogs here.

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