Teaching Him to Read pt. 7: Service Dogs (cont’)

link to previous entry: https://thepoliticsofreading.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/teaching-him-to-read-pt-6-sesame-street-and-service-dogs/puppppppyOver the weekend, I visited home and got to meet a beautiful, sweet, and smart dog!  As I mentioned in my last post, my family has been looking forward to taking a service dog home for about a year now.  Josh’s seizures have played the most insidious role in preventing him from reaching his literacy goals, so the added protection (and affection) of a service dog will hopefully allow him to revisit reading.

Even though Josh has always loved dogs, adjusting to such a new and unfamiliar routine will pose a challenge.  For instance, Francie (the dog) is attempting to bond with Josh, but sometimes her excitement can overwhelm him.  When she jumps up on him, he gets a bit confused and doesn’t know exactly what to do. We’ve tried encouraging him to pet her, give her hugs, and play with her, but displaying outward affection doesn’t come naturally to him.  Initially, we were concerned.  “What if Josh hurts the dogs feelings?”  “What if he doesn’t end up liking her?”  “What if this doesn’t work out?” I realize that these worries are irrational because this situation is completely normal.  The trainer told us that the adjustment period will be difficult, but that it will all work out in the end.  She reminded us of all the other families she’s worked with who’ve gone through the same thing.  At the same time, it’s hard to stow these doubts away.

We realized that we could take our concerns and turn them into something productive.  We are going to integrate dog care and bonding into my brother’s academic goals.  I was thinking that we could make flashcards with different dog-related tasks, such as “walk,” “pet,” or “feed” the dog.  Ideally, these cards would give him a chance to practice reading while upholding responsibilities.  I remember in his old literacy program, (more on this in the first entry,) one similar exercise taught him action words.  The instructor would give him commands about little figurines in order to help him understand verbs.  The instructor might have said, “Lift the cat, give me the frog, and hug the car.”  (These commands sound very strange outside of therapy context, but I promise it made a little more sense at the time.)  Maybe we could model a program about dog care after an exercise like this one.

Also, it may be beneficial to read dog-related picture books with Josh right now.  He loves characters like Spot, Scooby Doo, and Clifford.  He’s even called Francie “Clifford” a few times, after his favorite dog from PBS Kids.  It’s possible that having Francie by his side will make these characters even more enjoyable and even encourage him to read more often. When I was growing up, the best way to foster my love of reading was to make the story relateable in some way.  When I visit home again, I plan on trying out some Spot books and flashcards.  I will update next week.


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