|This is my Ainsley. She struggles with a lot of stuff, reading especially. And noises and information and sensory overload. But reading has been a particular source of frustration lately. She is well behind her peers in this skill. And it’s not for lack of trying. She has been sitting and holding books and we have been reading them with her from the time she was an infant. From Books for Babies to phonics to Oxford Learning Centre, we have tried it all. But still decoding language on the page has been difficult for her.
She has special needs, a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder and FASD, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and with these diagnoses there is a communication component. If you look at the ways in which the brain works and processes, it isn’t surprising really that reading might be a skill that is trickier for kids like Ainsley. Often learning disabilities come with the FASD diagnosis.
We use a lot of animal assisted therapies for Ainsley, largely because the research I have done on brain injuries like FASD indicates that animal assisted therapies can be particularly effective for this population. Ainsley rides a horse at SARI. The therapeutic riding program has been beneficial to her. A couple of years ago I listened to Dr. Bruce Perry, the famous trauma and the brain expert. At that time he clearly indicated that traditional talk therapy did not work well for people with FASD. So I began hunting for animal assisted programs in our area. There wasn’t a lot available when I first started looking through this area of Ontario. We waited quite awhile before Ainsley could do the Sari program, but now she is in and she loves it and I see that it gives her a lot to look forward to and it helps her with her indepence and communication, even behaviour.
This week we found this. Well, Ainsley did actually. I had been looking at the program for quite some time, but couldnt make our schedules fit another activity. Last week she picked up the phone and dialed for the London Public Library and told them she wanted to sign up for the Dog Tales program. A St. John’s Ambulance dog comes in once a month and children between 7 to 13 years of age who are shy or reluctant readers sit with the dog and read to it. The dog here is Jade. She is beautiful and calm and she has been trained to be a service dog. It’s still early to tell if this will be something that helps Ainsley to feel more confident or relaxed reading. But for now it’s one more tool in the arsenal at our house. And how great is it that my child with special needs knew enough to advocate for herself and pick up the phone and ask to start the program?
Dog Tales is registration only and runs at several of the London library branches. There are a couple of different dogs too. Call the Central Library for more information.