10 May 2018

Service Dogs and Invisible Disabilities | Sarah Meikle | TEDxDeerfield

Psychiatric service dogs are misunderstood; very few people produce them and there is a desperate need for more people to do so. There are even more people ...


you [Music] [Applause] this is Makayla one night when Makayla was six years old she had a seizure that was so terrible she nearly died no one was there to help and it was a very very close call Makayla has a condition that causes her seizures to only occur when she's asleep as you can imagine this makes managing her safety incredibly difficult ever since that night Michaela's parents have been too scared to ever let her sleep alone however Mikael is 12 years old now and as any 12 year old will enthusiastically tell you Makayla needs her independence over the years medications have helped to reduce Makayla seizures but they've never eliminated them completely and no monitoring system has ever proved effective enough to discern Makayla seizures from her normal sleeping tossing and turning Dreaming self until Ferris her medical or service dog this is Makayla as a new nighttime routine as you can see a lot has changed for Makayla this is a canine phone it is designed to

call any number that is programmed when the button is pushed once the button is pushed it will call that number and then play whatever message is pre-recorded on the device the organization I run Diggity Dog service dogs trained Ferris Makayla service dog to use the canine alert button to call for help whenever Makayla had a seizure you can see what this looks like in the following video that is of the first time that Michaela met Ferris and was testing his response if you watch closely she will be mimicking the behaviors that she often has during the seizure she will sleep pretend to sleep for a few minutes and then you will see her subtly begin to shake at that point you'll see Ferris respond as you can imagine this was a game changer for Makayla and her family when most people hear the term service dog they picture seeing-eye dogs for individuals that are blind seeing-eye dogs also called Guide Dogs are the oldest form of service dogs and they began being produced in the 1920s it would take nearly 30 years until other types of service dogs began to emerge in the form of hearing assistance dogs

these dogs would alert people to things like smoke detectors going off or someone knocking at the door mobility assistance dogs would follow soon after and they are truly amazing they do incredible things let's watch a few examples of our dogs in training they can do things such as find your keys you retrieve items from the fridge find your phone even phone yes good girl turn lights on and off okay the lengths help you get undressed yes good boy yes good boy good luck thank you good boy or retrieve various items upon request these days service dogs are doing more than ever before they are doing things like monitoring the blood sugar levels of people with diabetes and assisting with individuals that have autism and PTSD for most of our clients with psychiatric service dogs medication and therapy plays an important role in their recovery or treatment however our service dogs do things that neither of those things can they do things like interrupting self-destructive behaviors such as scratching cutting hair pulling or nail biting lists watch this video that shows one of our dogs persistently

interrupting somebody biting their nails until they stop the dogs alert to these behaviors that most of the time the clients do not realize they are doing and if these behaviors were and they were allowed to persist they would often escalate into full-blown panic attacks or sensory overload meltdowns where the individual actually loses control of their well-being by interrupting and alerting to such behaviors the dogs enable the individuals to use touching the dogs as a means of grounding themselves in the moment or as a prompt to use other coping mechanisms that may be at their disposal those can be things like medication or taking a moment to practice breathing techniques let's take a moment and look at what this would actually look like what you see here is actually in a behavior we call visit this is actually called deep pressure therapy also Co sometimes called deep ET and what deep pressure therapy is is the process of applying pressure to the body in order to relax the nervous system what happens when you applied deep pressure to the body is you actually switch from the

sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system you actually switch from fight-or-flight mode into rest and digest mode this feel physiological response is exactly why swaddling a baby often causes them to stop crying it's also why they give trauma patients weighted blankets or why thunder shirts work for dogs which some of you may be familiar with a psychiatric service dogs help in other ways too they are there to extend people's personal space in public just that extra foot or two that can able them to cope in crowded places for a lot of people that extra foot or two can be the difference between them being able to manage themselves in a certain situation or not they are also there to do things like wake people from nightmares which no medication or therapy can do for others they are there to remind them to take their medications medications that are offer is often essential for their stability additionally the dogs often remind people of erratic behaviors behaviors that are sometimes difficult for them to hear about from their loved ones yet from the dogs it's neutral they're able

to hear it I'd like to introduce you to a client of ours named Jason Jason was a productive member of society he's the father of a young girl a working surgical nurse technician until he experienced a trauma that was so severe it left him terrified and isolated before / came into my life I was so terrified of people and the outside world that I couldn't leave my basement and I had not left the house for a year and a half before I got Harper my inability to be around a lot of people I was left with very few options of what to do and when it was suggested to me that a service dog might be a good idea it opened up a whole new thing in my mind that I could actually get help and feel better without having to deal with other people so it gave me a different Avenue than just medicating myself to the point where I was not there anymore I don't know where I'd be without him amazingly as Jason said when he came to us to receive his service dog Harper he hadn't left his home alone in over a year and a half less than two weeks later he took his daughter to Disneyworld with Harper of course and in

fact they had such a good time they know now go back every single year this is an exciting time to be involved with service dogs we are finding more and more ways to help people we are finding an increasing number of conditions that we are able to train the dogs to help with we able to prevent repeated institutionalization we're able to decrease people's dependency on pharmaceuticals and we are able to decrease people's dependency on others we are able to really actually give them a sense of independence and we are actually saving lives with dogs like Ferris and his friends some of you may have noticed an increase in the number of service dogs that you have encountered in recent years there's good reason for this service dogs have a more diverse role in our lives than they ever have before it's difficult not to be curious when you encounter someone in public that is not visibly disabled and yet has a service dog however hopefully now you will be able to understand some of the tasks that these dogs perform and why is it it is so essential that this these dogs remain

focused when they are working in public situations training service dogs is an incredibly costly and time-consuming endeavor it means that the organizations that do produce them have had to be incredibly ingenious in the ways that they produce them some organizations have partnered with prisons and trained the prisoners to train the service dogs our organization has partnered with University of Massachusetts Amherst and the students are able to get credit for fostering and training our service dogs please allow me now to introduce a few of our service dogs and training these students have decided to take on the colossal challenge of deciding to train a service dog during their college years I cannot emphasize enough exactly the effort that this takes it requires an incredible amount of time management an incredible amount of patience absolute consistency and an utterly absurd amount of time however the dogs that they train go on to change other people's lives forever and I believe the students that choose to do it their lives are changed forever as well it's our hope that through this talk you will understand a little-known yet very powerful

treatment option that is available to people and understand a little bit more about how to interact appropriately with service dogs that you encounter in public thank you so much [Applause]