Alencon. Activity dogs to stimulate autistic children

Marine Marie and Rodeo, activity dog, in full motion.
Marine Marie and Rodeo, activity dog, in full motion. ©L’orne Hebdo

Rodeo is almost two years old. The calm and peaceful air of it Golden retriever hides a sensitive and playful side. If he starts school today Handi’dog center of Alençon (Orne), he will soon meet his new master. And not just any. It will be an autistic childaged 5 to 16 years.

awakening dogs

Rodéo is like more than 350 other hairballs that have been overtaken by handi’chiens an awakening dog.

These animals have the particularity of being “very comfortable with children, being both dynamic, proposing activities but also being composed and calm”, explains Marine Marie, responsible trainer for awakening dogs. Key point for people with autism: “They can see if the child is available or if they are in crisis and know how to give them space and then come back to them when the time comes.”

Rodeo is a dog suited to working with people with multiple disabilities.
Rodeo is a dog that can work with people with multiple disabilities. ©L’Orne Hebdo

More “He’s not a magic dog” the teacher warns. “It is necessary to explain to the parents that when the dog feels you tense flow of emotionsit can satiate”.

Get out of your bubble

The presence of the dog can help the child in this “Get Out of Your Bubble”, explains Marine Marie. But it also evolves Motor skills, fine motor skills, communication.

“The child reproduces what it sees. The simple gesture of picking up an item and giving it away can be complicated. Imitation makes it possible.” The same applies to cleanliness, “by observing that the dog washes or needs itself, a child who is not yet clean can become so”.

He can too advances in motor skills “because the child wants to hold his dog’s leash”.

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It is one of the main expectationscalm the child. “He becomes less anxious and more able to work,” explains the dog trainer. This presence can help reduce it sleep disorders.

stimulate language

“The child learns communicate with others learn to communicate with your dog. Both operate in the same way worldwide: “They reproduce what they are taught, they don’t understand the second degree…”.

The dog functions like the autistic child.

Marine Marie, governess

The presence of the dog can stimulate the child at the level of speaking : learn to master commands and thus new words through repetition. A dumb child can even develop languageimitates the parents when they call the dog.

The teacher says: “On the day the dog was handed over, a little girl called out, touched, ‘Mama!’. This is the first time this mother has heard her daughter’s voice. The child may “show signs of tenderness ” for the first time.

strengthen bonds

Thanks to his “service dog” cape The child is upgradedin public space.

Each assistance dog has a cape to signal that it is working.
Each assistance dog has a cape to signal that it is working. ©L’orne Hebdo

“People don’t judge anymore when they see the child behaving strangely or crying, they understand,” confirms Marine Marie. The child can gain confidence because they often repeat the same speech when strangers ask them questions about their dog.

But the animal also allows” create linkeven if only within the family”.

She explains that in a family where a young boy was “ashamed” of his disabled brother, the fact of walking that dog, who attracts positive looks made it possible to resell the siblings’ bonds.

It is the child’s dog, but above all the family project.

Marine Marie, governess

Thanks to this dog, parents allow themselves goes outside “without feeling guilty about making time for them”.

In search of osmosis

Families whose child is being cared for benefit from a training dog autism spectrum disorders,must send a file to the center national handi’dogswhich is evaluated by a Commission. Expect a two or three year wait.

The selection criteria are mainly based on Availability, plans and goals of parents . “The dog must help the child to make progress,this is not a service dog ‘” recalls Marine Marie.

“We’re also looking for an osmosis between the two,” explains the man who meets twice with parents and children before assigning them the animal. “We observe how the child behaves, although we know that an autistic child has their rituals and habits and that this new encounter can disturb them.”

Marine Denis has been a teacher at the handicraft center since 2009.
Marine Denis has been a teacher at the handicraft center since 2009. ©L’orne Hebdo

In the middle, an untinted window allows the teacher and parents to observe and analyze the behavior of the child left “alone” with the dog “if his disability is not severe”.

When the family file is validated, the latter benefits one week accommodation in the special unit for the training of dogs at the Handi’chiens center in Alençon on the occasion of a ” mandatory internship ».

In this center there are four rooms available for accommodating families, but also a recovery room, a kitchen… “It allows the child to get acquainted with their surroundings,” confides Marine Marie.

2021,seven awakening dogswere given to children with autism. Hundreds of applications are still pending.

Disabled dogs need foster homes

The club is lookingguest familiesin the Alençon sector to accommodate a future assistance dog.

The Handi’chiens association trains and provides assistance dogs free of charge to help and accompany children and adults with disabilities. Since its inception in 1989, nearly 2,300 dogs have been donated.

The training lasts two years.The puppy (Labrador or Golden Retriever) stays with its host family for 16 months, volunteers who take care of its socialization, socialization and education, after a course every 15 days.

He then continues his journey for six months at one of the four Handi’chiens training centers, where he is mentored by dog ​​trainers to perfect his training.

If each dog is given away free of charge, the club will incur costs of 15,000 euros.

Contact: Handi’chiens on 02 33 29 51 26 or by email:

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