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Children with mental and physical disabilities need all the attention, love, and care they can get. Living with autism is not easy. Whether it’s tactile, auditory, or sensory over-stimulation, individuals on the spectrum need help to stabilize their sensations and feel comfortable in extremely challenging environments.
We came across a new uncommon service for autistic children by Eastwind, an institution specialized in dog care and training services, where dogs aid in the development of autistic children. To shed light on services that can help parents and children, we decided to interview Eastwind dogs coach, Captain Hussein, to tell us all about it.
How it all began
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“Eastwind is a professional multinational 20-year-old institution that is specialized in dog services. We received many requests from customers to start a service where dogs can help autistic children as it’s a technique applied abroad, not just for autistic children, but for ADHD, depression, and other psychological issues as well,” Coach Hussein told us.
It took the team two years to launch the service and the institution has finally received accreditation as a Service Dog Division.
The team soon started contacting customers who previously requested the service and were the inspiration behind the idea. “They were excited to hear that their dream finally came true,” Coach Hussein said.
The service is supervised by a specialized psychiatrist, a specialist in dogs’ behavior, and a quality control team.
How dogs help children
“We have to clearly state that there is no cure for autism through this service. However, a dog can help an autistic child in activities that in turn will improve his communication, language, psychological, physical, and mental skills,” Coach Hussein explained.
The service works as follows:
- The dog soothes the child upon showing any violent behavior that could be harmful.
- The dog eases eye contact for the child which is a major challenge for autistic children.
- The dog changes the child’s mood whenever upset via distraction and playing.
- The dog helps children express themselves and learn something new like colors or new vocabulary.
- The dog helps the child to securely sleep.
- Then, the child starts to take on a few responsibilities and tasks with the dog which aids logical thinking.
The success of the program depends on the dog
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Coach Hussein elaborated that the program’s success depends on the dog’s personality. The dogs are trained to be fully obedient even without leashes and to expect any action from children like pinching or screaming without showing any violent reaction. The team targets dogs that can easily adapt to this environment.
” We start by evaluating the child’s state with the help of his family, school, and the medical supervisor. We customize a program for the child that can help in reaching the required goal as each child is different. However, the main step is to gradually introduce the dog to the child over five to eight sessions,” he added.
Different programs available:
- The customer can adopt the dog
- The child can have home visits by the dog
- The child can have sessions at the autism center with the dog.
Spreading hope, Coach Hussein ended our talk by telling us that over the past two years since the service was launched, they have witnessed progress in many cases starting the 10th session.
Don’t forget that any child needs acceptance above all.
Further reading: An Egyptian Nursery Said My Son Is Autistic and This Is My Story