How Tin-Tin the dog teaches Jakub – Canistherapy at the Autism Centre Andreas
At the Autism Centre Andreas we offer various therapies and free time activities for children with autism as a part of their stay at the Centre. Jakub’s favourite one was canistherapy.
“I want Tin-Tin already!” Jakub greets his therapist. Tin-Tin - a black Labrador who visits Jakub together with his owner is at the top of Jakub’s chart at the moment. Jakub no longer greets his therapist Lucia calling “Song!”, ”Trampoline!”, “Swing!”. Instead, he always asks: “Is Tino coming?”. “Tino only comes on Wednesdays” says the therapist patiently and shows Jakub his timetable. “Why?” But it is difficult to answer this question. “I want Wednesday!”, wishes Jakub on Monday, Tuesday,… every day.
Jakub already knows that they always start with shaking hands with Tino, like real men. “Shake!”…says Jakub with difficulties, but then he gradually starts talking. The dog Tin-Tin teaches Jakub. Jakub starts to understand that if he doesn’t call on Tino, Tino doesn’t come. “Fetch!” says Jakub and Tino brings a ball. With Tino’s help Jakub learns to communicate in a natural way. Tino gives him a direct feedback, positive or negative. Developing communication skills this way (like in case of other people with autism) is much more effective than involving children with autism in concrete activities (by asking questions or making comments), which might be related to them, but in which they are absolutely not interested, and therefore, they do not feel the need to react to them.
Tino also teaches Jakub to manage his hyperactivity. Tino helps Jakub to calm down, so that he can focus. When Jakub met Tino for the first time and they were supposed to walk together, Jakub started twisting the lead (just like he does with laces, beads, or anything that can be twisted). This of course got Tino going and they both got excited. Moreover, Jakub got a bit scared by Tino’s playfulness and he started losing his confidence. After they met again and again, Jakub gradually gave up on the lead twisting. As a reward, he could walk with Tino around the garden and later in the street too. Besides playing fetch, Jakub really enjoys contact with Tino. Most of the time Jakub puts his head on Tino’s back and listens to Tino’s breath. Face-to face contact is the most interesting one for Jakub. He’s fascinated by the way Tino sticks his tongue out. He would like to look inside Tino.
The session is over. Tino is leaving with his owner, who says that Tinos sleeps like a log after each canistherapy session. Most probably, Jakub cannot fall asleep at all because he is too excited and cannot wait for the next Wednesday to come.