As a Speech/Language Pathologist, I have had the privilege of working with Diane Rampelberg and her assistance dogs over the past several years, with a variety of children seen at Saint Alphonsus Rehabilitation Services. Ovelle and Prairie have been especially helpful when working with children with feeding disorders. The dogs, given Diane’s guidance, are able to distract and motivate those children who may have sensory issues with food, related to medical backgrounds such as a chronic history of reflux, or other issues that prevent children from establish healthy attitudes toward mealtime. One recent example of a child who benefited from the assistance dogs, was a child who was referred to us because of her strong refusal to eat anything but a small handful of food types. She would typically refuse to touch most foods, even gagging at the sight or smell of many foods. When attempting evaluate this child, she initially did not want to even remain in the high chair, based on the new setting and foods introduced. When Diane and her dogs entered the room, they were able to immediately capture her attention. Given the motivation to interact with the dogs, the child soon picked up foods that previously elicited a strong negative response, and handed them to the dogs directly. She quickly moved on to bring non-desired foods to her own lips independently. Her parents were able to follow through on these strategies at home to introduce touch, smell and tastes of food at home. Within a month, the child was eating a good variety of foods and trying even more. Her diet changed significantly, allowing for improved weight gain and enhanced meal time experiences for the family. Just one evaluation session was needed for this child, thanks to Diane and her dogs, who allowed the child to over come her fears and for her parents to witness successful strategies for home (including feeding the family dog!). – Patricia Vandervelden, Speech/Language Patholgist

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