Canine Assisted Social Skills In Education (CASSIE) Program
To provide students with Autism Spectrum behaviors the support, communication and social skills training needed to be more successful in the school, home and community environments.
Children with spectrum behaviors have a multitude of issues that they must cope with on a daily basis. Many are overwhelmed with sensory input, do not know how to interact appropriately with peers or authority figures, are easily frustrated and overwhelmed due to their lack of communication skills. Children on the spectrum have yet to develop the social skills necessary to interact appropriately within their school, community, and even home environments.
Empathy, moral conscience, respect and appropriate peer interactions are difficult at best to teach in a structured environment. Through the Paws for Autism Canine Assisted Social Skills In Education Program service teams will work with the children on a one to one basis and/or in small group settings to focus on the skills needed to improve their ability to function appropriately in multiple environments.
The presence of a service animal has been found to lower anxiety and motivate participation both in and out of the classroom. The animal's warm and calming presence can be comforting and encouraging because it is completely non-judgemental. Animal Assisted Activities and Therapies are used in conjunction with Applied Behavioral Analysis techniques to improve social and communication skills.
During our initial visits, the Animal Assisted Therapy Autism Specialist will encourage groups of 3 orless children to pet, brush, hug or speak to the dog. These activities enable the children to experience unconditional love (maybe for the first time), build feelings of trust, empathy and respect and participate with the group. These interactions also allow the children to achieve outward focus and forget about their problems for the moment. The children learn to walk the dog on a leash, bring the dog water and reward the dog for obeying basic obedience commands, all with the help of the Animal Assisted Therapy Autism Specialist. The latter activity allows the child to experience positive control and heightens their self-esteem when the dog listens and responds. These represent part of the many ways our dogs and specialist teams interact with the children. Once this basis of trust is developed, the team can begin to focus on specific social skills.
Common treatment goals are to:
- improve socialization and communication;
- reduce isolation, boredom and loneliness;
- brighten affect and mood, lessen depression, and/ or provide pleasure and affection;
- improve memory and recall;
- be presented with opportunities to succeed and feel important, and improve feelings of self worth;
- improve reality;
- improve cooperation and problem-solving ability;
- improve concentration and attention, and increase engagement;
- decrease manipulative behaviors;
- improve expression of feelings and empathy;
- reduce general anxiety;
- reduce abusive behavior;
- Improve an ability to trust; and
- learn appropriate touch
Animals in the Classroom
There can be many benefits to integrating Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) into the classroom in school settings. Goals for students in classrooms using AAA include:
- Educating students about service animals vs. pets
- gaining knowledge about animals;
- learning humane animal care;
- motor and physical skill development through human-animal interactions;
- animal training;
- practicing discipline;
- incorporating an attitude of kindness and compassion;
- learning about nurturing;
- practicing loyalty and responsibility;
- experiencing human-animal bonding;
- learning responsible pet ownership
Animal-assisted activities may be used to curb violence in the schools. Animals in the classroom have empirically been proven to enhance humane attitudes toward animals and these more humane attitudes persisted in a one year follow up (Delta, 1999). This same study showed a generalization from humane attitudes toward animals to human-directed empathy. Thus, emotional connections made with animals can transfer to more empathic attitudes towards other persons.
If you would like more information on the CASSIE private classes or integration into your school, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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