Many of us are uncomfortable in the dentist's chair. From that dazzling bright light shining in our eyes to the strange things being shoved in our mouth, it's generally not a very pleasant place to sit. And then there are those awful sounds! Now, imagine how much worse it is for a child with autism.
Fortunately for autistic children in Santiago, Chile, six dogs have come to their rescue. The dogs are part of the non-profit Junto a Ti ("Next to You") which helps autistic children face their fear of dental visits.
Ranging from a Boston Terrier named Perry to a black Lab named Zucca, the six therapy dogs have one thing in common - they're all females. The program believes that female dogs are more docile and accepting around autistic children. The non-profit is the brainchild of Raul Varela, whose own son is autistic. After noticing the calming effect the family's black Lab had on his son, he became certified as a trainer of therapy dogs for autistic children.
Each of the dogs has received specialized training. Valera explains, "Zucca had already been trained to be around children with autism, but taking her to the dentist was different. She needed to be able to resist the screaming, the noise from the drill and to stay still in the lap of the children, even when they pull their hair or their ears." The dogs are also trained to sit calmly while the dentist and child practice the upcoming dental procedure in their mouth before the child takes the chair!
Before the dogs started helping, some children needed sedation before a dental procedure. Four year-old Diego Rosales repeatedly bit his dentist out of sheer fright. Today, Zucca keeps the now nine year-old Diego calm during his dental visits, something we're sure his dentist appreciates! His mother, Veronica Narvaez, says that he 'can't wait' for his next visit to the dental clinic.
According to the Associated Press, the dogs have helped around fifty children at the Los Andes University Medical Center's dental clinic. The clinic pays about $67 for each dog visit while it sees autistic patients on a sliding-fee basis.
Contact us for information about a rewarding career helping children like Diego face their fears. And, if interested in learning more about this and related topics, visit the Behavioral Health section of our blog.
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