Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Nikki your my hero"

I know, I know - I get the award for the world's worst blogger! I certainly don't want to bore you with the details of my life but I got to tell you that Nikki is one amazing dog. As she sleeps at my feet....let me tell you about what happened today. This was our first day back in some of the classrooms we visited regularly last year. Nikki remembered which classrooms and even dragged me into our preschool classroom with the students with physical and cognitive disabilities. I am not sure what is the draw for this classroom as she often gets her hair pulled and kicked by the kids excited to see her. Brushing usually consists of tapping the brush on her side instead of strokes. But Nikki wants to be in this classroom and she will lay very still as the kids open and close their hands on her fur, pull her tail and look under those large flaps on her head. Today, she quietly laid beside a little guy who is having a lot of difficulty moving anything. It is really hard to gage his responses because they might be just a shift of his eyes or a slight squeeze of his hand. But today - today he turned his head toward Nikki as she laid there beside him! It was amazing. He also got visibly agitated once he turned his head. Now I am not saying agitated as in mad but agitated in we saw (and it wasn't just me!) facial movements, eye movements and arm movements. (Yes-Terry we took pictures!)It was amazing. Such little movements meant so much. We will definitely try that again.
Later in the day we went to another school. We visit two classrooms with students with autism. With me today - in addition to the teaching staff was the assistive technology specialist and the speech therapist. They help me since these students are not physically disabled but do have communication issues. The speech therapist is looking for improvements in the use of language when Nikki is around. In the one classroom we introduced Nikki to the students. Several of the kids were new so we talked and acted out the things that Nikki likes to do. They all gave her treats and several gave her verbal commands to sit, speak and turn. It is very cool to see how excited the kids get when she responds to their commands! (Thank goodness Nikki and I learning hand signals!) The other class has 4 or 5 boys. One of the boys has regressed in his spoken language this year. He has had a difficult first few weeks of school. Apparently he has been barely audible, not using full sentences and rarely smiling. Almost immediately when Nikki came in he approached her and started smiling and verbalizing. Last year he had to use full sentences when asking to give Nikki a treat so I prompted him to do this again today. Immediately he said "I want to give Nikki a Fruit Loop". He repeated this over and over and over. All were amazed as his verbalizations this year have been so different. He then began to throw Nikki the ball - over and over. Nikki loves retrieving (for a treat!) so she ran back and forth for this student. Several of the other boys got into the fun of throwing the ball and watching her retrieve - taking turns and sharing the ball. Finally one of the boys hugged her and said "Nikki you are my hero". That says it all. Sometimes dogs can reach where humans can't. Nikki made a difference today and I feel good about that.