Dog-Assisted Social Skill Training to Feature at Texas Autism Conference

Top Quote Austin Dog Alliance will demonstrate unique animal-assisted social skill training for youth on the autism spectrum at the Texas Autism Conference on Saturday, October 13. End Quote
  • Austin-San Marcos, TX (1888PressRelease) October 09, 2012 - When dogs and children get together, magic happens. And when dogs and children on the autism spectrum get together, these kids can find it easier to learn.

    Saturday, October 13, the Austin Dog Alliance will present "Using Dogs as Reinforcers to Teach Social Skills" at the Texas Autism Conference to be held at the Austin Convention Center. Alliance founder Debi Krakar and Rany Thommen, K9 Club Autism/Asperger's Program Instructor will discuss how using therapy dogs in the classroom can help children with autism open up and learn often difficult-to-teach social skills.

    The Austin Dog Alliance began using specially trained therapy dogs to teach social skills to kids with autism in 2010. Recently, the Alliance also partnered with the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services to launch its first-of-its-kind job-training program "K9 Club Careers with Dogs," to prepare youth with disabilities for careers in animal-related fields.

    The Alliance's presentation on Saturday will include therapy dog, "Riley," and will cover:
    Benefits of dogs when working with children
    Types of pet therapy
    Autism/Asperger's social skill enrichment curriculum
    Strategies when using dogs in the classroom
    Results of data collection and anecdotal reports
    Funding sources for parents and educators

    Austin Dog Alliance founder and executive director Debi Krakar is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Pet Partner Evaluator and Instructor, Pet First Aide Instructor, AKC Canine Good Citizen and Association of Pet Dog Trainers Canine Life and Social Skills Evaluator. She holds an MAS in Accounting/Information Systems and a BA in Computer Science.

    The Alliance's autism/Asperger's program instructor Rany Thommen is founder of an applied behavior analysis program for families affected by autism and other developmental disabilities. She earned her BA in psychology from Emory University, where she worked with the Emory Autism Center's Walden Early Childhood Program, and her MA from the University of Texas in Autism and Developmental Disabilities/Early Childhood. Ms. Thommen co-chairs the Texas Association for Behavior Analysis South and Central Texas Autism Interest Group.

    Austin Dog Alliance will present in room 8C of the Austin Convention Center on Saturday, October 13 and will include two one-and-a-half-hour sessions starting at 8:30 am and 10:30 am.

    About Austin Dog Alliance
    Located in Austin, Texas, the Austin Dog Alliance, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, provides unique group social skills development programs for children with autism spectrum disorder that incorporate the use of canine-assisted therapy. Austin Dog Alliance also provides handler-dog teams to local hospitals, rehabilitation centers and nursing homes, as well as schools and libraries through its Bow Wow Reading Dog program.

    The Austin Dog Alliance's "Build Our Forever Home Capital Campaign" is raising $1.57 million to build a permanent campus in Cedar Park in 2013. Staff members from O'Connell Robertson volunteered their time to design the site and building, and the firm donated the plans. The Austin Dog Alliance project is another demonstration of O'Connell Robertson's dedication to creating environments that enrich the lives of the people (and dogs) they were designed to serve. Other firms donating their design services include Big Red Dog Engineering and Landscape Architecture. Legal counsel was donated by Murray & Associates, P.C.

    Media Contact:
    Debi Krakar
    Executive Director, Austin Dog Alliance
    12129 RR 620 North, Suite 401
    Austin, TX 78750
    Office: 512.335.7100
    Cell: 512.576.8300
    Email: debi ( @ ) austindogalliance dot org

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