A dog for special needs communities can help improve social connections
Working with special needs children and adults in any setting can be challenging. We have seen our wellbeing dog program help increase social engagement and emotional support for people with a disability.
How do community dogs help people special needs?
Therapy dogs are often used to help people with the mental and physical trauma associated with disabilities and illness. Although we don’t have therapy dogs, we do see many benefits of introducing a permanent wellbeing dog into special needs communities.
Our programs train you to think creatively when incorporating a dog into your existing community.
Having a dog for special needs can also:
Help deal with trauma
The impact of trauma manifests as behaviour for many people. Having a wellbeing dog can help you understand how to shift the impact of trauma in your community members.
Having a community dog gives everyone a sense of responsibility. You can build interactions that involve walking, playing and care routines. By helping out, all community members can enjoy a sense of responsibility and ownership of the wellbeing dog.
Improve mental health
Improving mental health in special needs communities can be challenging. Evidence has found that even patting a dog can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
Increase social interaction
For children with autism and a range of other challenges, there are many benefits to interacting with a dog. Evidence has found that even a short period of interacting with an animal can increase social interaction. Autism dogs provide non-judgemental companionship and allow children with special needs an opportunity to develop their social skills in their own
How does it work?
There is no one size fits all – we offer a range of packages that help work out the best way of incorporating a wellbeing dog into your special needs community. Initially, we need a volunteer from the community to home the dog and be the primary carer. Once that has been decided, we help you:
- Find a suitable dog that will suit your circumstances.
- Write policies, risk assessments and building protocol documents to meet international standards.
- Prepare your community so that consistent expectations are set and met by everyone.
- Set up your community and home space so that your wellbeing dog feels like it belongs.
- Train individuals in building authentic connections between members of the community and the wellbeing dog.
- Set healthy and context-appropriate behavioural routines for your wellbeing dog and community.
- Teach social and emotional management strategies with the wellbeing dog.
- Build confidence with the community dog and become creative by working as a team to meet your needs.