Roxey (a Shetland Sheepdog) and her handler, Sandy assist a speech therapist with her autistic clients once a month. The boy is pre-school age and just started regular classes at a regular pre-school. Sandy has been working with them for about a year.
The mother of the boy is in the session the whole time taking notes while the therapist works on vocabulary and sentence structure. They often try to pick vocabulary words that Roxey can illustrate. One word he was having particular problems with was “sausage.” So Sandy took sausage “looking” treats for the boy to feed Roxey. If he said the word correctly, he got to toss the treat to Roxey. We’ve also been working on conjugating verbs, so we go through actions like “Roxey is sitting,” and “Roxey sat.” Sometimes his vocabulary words include things Roxey can wear: sunglasses, hat, feathers, etc. For Halloween, “ghost” was a word for the boy, so Roxey came dressed as a ghost. Another time, “basket” was a word, so Sandy strapped a basket onto Roxey’s back, and the boy put other vocabulary word items into her basket. Roxey especially loves sessions when there are food vocabulary words because she often gets to eat.
Sandy and Roxey have just started working with a little girl who loves animals, so Roxey is there to motivate her. Most of our first session was Roxey being a model for the opposite of the word being taught (over/under, front/back), body parts (leg, ear, nose), and feeding treats to when she got something right. The girl was being taught to greet people, so Roxey would wave to her and she would say “hello” to Roxey.
Sandy and Roxey love their role to help autistic children