My non-verbal patient with Down Syndrome (10 years old) came to me in order to better communicate with the use of an assistive technology device (The Vantage Lite). Keeping this patient motivated was a challenge! He never wanted to participate in the activities I had planned and got easily frustrated if he wasn’t in control at all times. Using Diane and the dogs, Prairie and Ovelle, has made a 100% change in this patient. With the dogs present (he still won’t work well when they aren’t there), he is now able to make requests using his device for the dogs to eat, drink, do tricks and play doctor (just to name a few activities we do). He has learned to combine multiple symbols on the device to say “Big Prairie and Ovelle eat carrot, please.” “Big Prairie and Ovelle sleep, please.” “Big Prairie and Ovelle wake up!” And, “Big Prairie and Ovelle get ball, please.” The dogs were such a hit (especially Prairie) that the family’s Christmas present this year was a female yellow lab who was affectionately named “Little Prairie” by the family. This patient is now doing so well that as of January 11, 2011, he has been discharged from speech and language therapy. Thank you for making a difference Prairie and Ovelle! It wouldn’t have been possible with out you! – Amber Gresham, Speech/Language Pathologist


Meet Matthew, a student in Mary Shide-Hartje’s Communication Class. He’s learning to take his turn while putting together a puzzle with Ovelle. To play, Ovelle needs to “GET” the puzzle piece out by grasping the piece knob in her teeth and then pulling it out of puzzle or dropping the piece in and pushing it in place with her nose – sometimes with a little help from Matthew. Mary says, “Our Dustin’s Paw dogs are some of the best speech therapists! They encourage interactions, sharing, turn-taking, sounds, words, and just general communication in a very fun and motivating way.”

Visually-impaired student Rachel plays “baby” with Dustin. Accompanied by teacher/handler Diane Rampelberg, Dustin’s Paw interactive play themed “kits” encourage development of many of the student’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) goals such as fine and gross motor skills, colors, shapes, and socialization. Asked what was her favorite activity to “play” with Dustin, Rachel replied, “Baby is my favorite game, but I like walking Dustin the best!” – Candy Ritcher of The Times.