Children living on the autism spectrum often have difficulty staying focused on a thought or task. Looking at the person speaking to them, holding a gaze and making direct eye contact is difficult for them. Remembering what they have been asked or how to form a sentence or response is a challenge.
Learning to focus, pay attention and retain that thought is an important aspect of what we do with the therapy dogs.
Julian has now worked with Benny for over a year and one of the techniques we use is having Julian give Benny his commands, such as sit, stay. This not only helps Julian focus on a task but gives him control as to what the dog does. He has overcome tremendous obstacles with his speech, attention span, focus and ability for use appropriate words.
“Benny, look at me” is an important command. It not only has Julian speak directly to the dog, but he has to look at him as he has been instructed as Benny needs to have you look straight at him for him to absorb each command.
You see, Benny also has some neurological challenges. He too has a very short attention span. He needs to look directly into your eyes to understand what you are saying. He has to focus.
Julian has to look right into his eyes and blow on his nose to get a Benny kiss.
Julian has to get up close and touch his paw to get a Touchdown.
Julian has to walk in front of Benny, a very difficult thing for him to do, turn his back on a dog, to get Benny to “follow me.”
This week Julian had Benny walk through his hoop, walk up and down steps, follow him on the second leash inside and outside.
Julian asked Benny to sit, do his pancake and crawl, stay, walk (Let’s Go Benny) and most importantly, Look at Me.
And Julian has learned that Benny learns best when you are patient, positive, calm, gentle and repetitive. Just like Julian.