The past four years I have gotten to know Diane and her dogs (Dustin, Geralyn and Ovelle), as a teacher for children birth to 3 with visual impairments I cannot emphasize enough how important this relationship has been. Diane works directly with our children and families and builds on concept development as we work on different tasks in and out of the classroom. Children with visual impairments are at the greatest risk for being tactilely defensive as their hands are like their eyes. The method that Diane uses to introduce the dogs to our kids allows them time to explore and learn about a dog at a pace that supports their development and interest level. A child who is blind or visually impaired needs to have some sort of mental image of the real object or being before an abstract picture or symbol makes a connection. How do you “imagine” a dog when vision is not providing the input? How do you imagine the hair, the face, the tail, the nose, etc.? Not only does her work help a child develop a concept of a “dog,” an “animal,” or a “pet” — but, this work builds on a child’s ability to understand and begin to generalize concepts like, “up,” “down,” “on,” and “off.” She expands upon a child’s skills simply by doing activities that the child does with the dog. This work has been so meaningful and enriching to our children’s lives. The families are overjoyed with the outcomes and the results will last a lifetime. This work reduces fear of dogs, builds relationships, supports concept development, increases interest in mobility, supports orientation and mobility skills giving them a safe way to explore, travel and have fun. In addition, Diane finds ways to incorporate daily living skills through the dogs like feeding, brushing teeth, and taking care of oneself or another being as she works with the children. The benefits are endless and the results are life sustaining. They truly do work miracles. – Diana Dennis, Early Interventionist and Vision Specialist, Santa Clara County Office of Education, San Jose, CA

 

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