Evolution of a new AAT exercise.

There was a young boy, we will call him “Charlie”, who received hippotherapy with a Speech Therapist and canine assisted therapy with an OT.

Charlie and his family struggled with Charlie’s emotional lability issues.  When his Mum came to pick him up at the horse farm, Charlie could hardly contain himself.  He loved his Mum very much and had gotten in the bad habit of giving her a tight hug around the neck with his arm…sort of like a choke hold.

This was relatively benign while Charlie was small but as he became tall and strong, it was a little frightening for his Mother.  Sky and I had been working with Charlie for two sessions when I had to bring my non-therapy, therapy dog, Campbell.

I usually left her home.  She had emotional lability issues.  She would get overly excited barking and bouncing uncontrollably when she met people, she was now, almost exclusively, my house dog/beloved pet.  She had one paw out the door in our program for Animal Assisted Therapy OT & PT Pups in Ann Arbor.

Charlie came over to her crate and she went into her usual boing-boing, yip-yip routine.  He took a look at her shushed her and kind of wiped his hands downward.  Like he was smoothing out something in front of him.  He repeated it “Shhhhhh”, slowly and gently raising his hands in front of him and lowering them.  The way the conductor signals the symphony to sit back down… “Shhhh”. Campbell stopped bouncing, went silent and sat down.

Holly Dog Whisperer!  The Speech Therapist and OT and Mum all witnessed it. This became the signal they gave Charlie when they needed him to take self calming measures.  It is, to this day, Campbell’s signal, to take self calming measures.  I am happy to say she is back in service at OT & PT Pups.

First the client asks her to bounce and bark, then asks her to become calm.  Thanks to Charlie the Emotional Lability exercise is now an important part of our AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) repitoire that we offer Therapists and their clients.

Well done Charlie!

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