Animal Therapy | Speech Therapy | Occupational Therapy | Genius Program
The Autism Academy has six dogs as classmates. Throughout the school year, each campus shares an extraordinary relationship with six witty and adorable dogs. Lorie Crabtree provides pet services at the Autism Academy for Education and Development.
Dogs help children with autism experiencing sleep conditions, the dangerous tendency of wandering, positive touch, and friendship. In fact, there’s a host of benefits to having a dog as a classmate and a friend. Children with disabilities can pose distinctive challenges for parents. Autism presents even more distinct challenges than other predominant disabilities. Children with autism do not connect well in various environments. Autism manifests itself most strikingly as impairments in communication and social relationships. Many children with autism are nonverbal, and those that are verbal, usually do not use their communication skills to engage with people in their environment. Some children even exhibit serious behavioral concerns, including, at times, self-injury. In addition, many of these children have a strong need for structured, routine environments, because change creates feelings of fear and anxiety. Children with autism can be extremely systematic, orderly, and routine oriented. Disruptive events that occur as minor incidents can cause an extreme breakdown amongst students with autism. Dogs can help calm, console and distract them from such disappointments. Service dogs also attract kids that are eager to connect with an outside world that might not understand them. However, service dogs are expensive. An estimate for one trained dog is upward of $14,000, depending on the needs. After the purchase, it takes approximately nine months of training before the new dog is prepared to fully function in the classroom.
Crabtree been training dogs for more than a decade. Crabtree offers weekly pet services at the Autism Academy called, “Dog Time.” On every campus she takes six service dogs into various classrooms. Mozzie is a 4-year old Collie; Kodabear is a 6-year-old New Foundland/Leonberger; Sunset is a 7-year-old Golden Retriever; Willow is an 11-month-old Maltipoo; Patriot is a 6-month-old New Foundland; and Rebel is a 6-month-old Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd. These service dogs are trained to work specifically with the kids at the school. They aid non-verbal students by responding to hand commands.
They support speech therapy by responding to verbal commands. They assist with field trips by preventing students from straying off. They help kids remember hygiene techniques. There are countless services we provide with the dogs. Teachers also use Dog Time as a way to reward students with more personal interaction, dog races, and fetch time. Students transition from fear to calmness as they gain more familiarity with the dogs in a learning environment.
At the Autism Academy the teachers and the therapists work together as a team to maximize the growth of our students. We want our students to be successful in the classroom, as well as reach their fullest potential in speech therapy. Individual Education Plans are monitored routinely to maximize each student’s highest potential.
Our program provides an intense consultation and direct-service model for speech/language and occupational therapy. This model reinforces skillsets and ensures consistent use of recommendations. Consulting services include observation, teacher training, program recommendations, monitoring of recommendations, and programming for activities. We facilitate learning, generalization of language, and motor skill objectives.
Students work daily on improving their speech, language, and social pragmatic skills. Additionally, in speech therapy we focus on improving all aspects of communication. Our goal is to help students form necessary relationships and increase function in day-to-day life. Some of our Speech Therapy goals include:
- Forming relationships with peers;
- Communicating wants and needs, both verbally and nonverbally;
- Initiating communication with a communicative partner;
- Demonstrating an understanding of social pragmatic skills; AND
- Developing skills needed to engage in reciprocal conversation.
Occupational Therapy (OT)
Students work daily on improving their motor skills. In OT, we focus mainly on functional skills needed in everyday settings.
Some of our Occupational Therapy goals include:
- Perform functional task that require motor skills;
- Provide sensory activities that promote development in required areas;
- Develop sensory diets and accommodations as needed for our students; AND
- Partner with teachers to promote the most effective programming for students
The Academy works in partnership with the Genius Program. This service allows our students to find purpose and meaning in their lives and enjoy closer friendships/relationships with others. It also strengthens children with autism to find the courage and passion to create their own future without feeling different in a negative way. Click here to find out more about the “Genius” Program!
- To teach professional coaching tools to the program director and the teachers as behavior-based communication tools;
- To provide brain-based exercises to enhance connection between specific brain areas;
- To educate parents of ASD children to introduce specific exercises and behavior based interactions in their daily family communication;
- To discover and leverage the natural brain plasticity of every ASD student;
- To create and maintain a human environment at school and at home that balances the brain development of each child;
- To strongly encourage awareness of individual value in each child, teacher, and parent; AND
- To align the most effective therapy programs at the Autism Academy with professional coaching for the most caring and effective interactions with ASD students.