WASHINGTON, CT - The Glenholme School's newest staff member is a one-year old black standard poodle named Rupert.
Rupert was bred by local kennels, evaluated by East Coast Assistance Dogs, and trained to be part of an Occupational Therapy Team. Rupert's partner and trainer is owner Betsy Daniels who is part of the OT department at Glenholme. Betsy and Rupert are finishing up The D.J. Pet Assisted Therapy (PAT) University Certificate Program offered at the Community College of Rhode Island. The D.J. PAT Program involves 3 courses, which include a hundred hour internship and over a year of study.
Betsy became aware of the important ability to build rapport with the children receiving OT whenever they shared stories about their pets. Now the children can't wait to go to Occupational Therapy and "work" with Rupert who is incorporated in OT sessions as a modality tool. The many benefits include improved rapport with the therapists which often helps the children feel more comfortable in taking risks needed to learn skills that are usually difficult for them. The children have even worked on improving their penmanship in order to help write a book on Rupert. They learn nurturing, empathy, respect for all living things, and dog facts and safety. Even petting Rupert's soft coat is a calming sensory experience for some children. In return, Rupert gives them plenty of unconditional love. It doesn't matter to him why the children are coming to OT or if he is just visiting them in the classroom, he loves them all the same and greets them with a wagging tail and his doggy smile.
Loaded with standard poodle charm from his moist nose to his tufted tail, the curly-haired black dog has made the work the Occupational Therapist more effective. "They're so motivated by Rupert," Daniels said of the children she works with. "Rupert takes any tension out of a situation."
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