I already knew about the power of animal assisted therapy as a friend of mine, Frances Weston, uses her Labrador Tilly very successfully in her counselling sessions.
However, I hadn’t really thought about using an animal in speech and language therapy at all. I was working on a channel 4 programme called ‘Born Naughty’, when I was asked to assess a 9 year old called Honey, who was very anxious. She almost totally trashed the library and was basically a whirling dervish of anger, fear and extreme anxiety all wrapped up as awful behaviour! The producer said that we wouldn’t be able to include her as he could get hardly any useable footage from the first session. I, however, had been given a job to do so wanted to complete it. I wanted to know why she was behaving this way, what were her receptive language skills, had she got social communication difficulties and, above all, had been asked to complete my part of an ASD assessment.
I asked him if we could see her again at Sunshine Barn near Ashbourne where Frances has sheep Bertie and Beatrice, chickens, ducks and the gorgeous Tilly, the chocolate Labrador. Tilly greeted Honey, who at once became relaxed, happy and very compliant. We couldn’t believe it was the same child! I realised then that I needed a therapy dog BUT as part of my HCPC registration must only do activities based upon evidence based practice.
I got myself a beautiful chocolate Labrador called Ralph, who the breeder suggested was very bright as he was naughty and into everything; but didn’t really know where to start to use him in therapy when he was old enough.
Fortunately, Frances recommended a course for counsellors […]