A number of you have seen our Facebook pictures, but we also want to bring you blog followers to speed concerning our growing relationship with Retrieving Freedom, Inc. In short, Retrieving Freedom (RFI) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to training service dogs to help people, namely veterans, children with autism, and individuals living with diabetes.
For adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), pet therapyoften opens the door to a variety of unique learning opportunities. Baddour Center is very fortunate to have our SAIL (Skills for Achieving Independent Living) Department partnering with RFI. Through this partnership, our residents have the chance to:
- improve social skills
- increase motor skills
- receive sensory input
- enhance day-to-day activities, and
- promote self-confidence while learning new skills
While our residents certainly benefit in these ways, the cool part is that the “service dogs-in-training” also benefit and are given a chance to practice their skills before being permanently placed with a veteran, a child with autism, or an individual living with diabetes. We are super-excited about this partnership opportunity and look forward to a long-lasting relationship.
To prove how truly awesome this is for Baddour, here’s a real-live example worth sharing...
RK is a 44-year old man with Down syndrome who loves to dance. RK is very routine-oriented and really doesn’t like change or disruptions in his daily schedule. While he doesn’t often talk, RK expresses displeasure by folding his arms across his chest, flashing his trademark scowl, and refusing to do anything or go anywhere despite our attempts to convince him otherwise.
RK attends our SAIL Program daily. He prefers sitting in a corner of the classroom surrounded by familiar things that he brings each day with him from home. Every morning, he unpacks his tote and places his treasures on the table. Every afternoon, he packs it up again to take home. We were very unsure how RK would react when the dogs and handlers from RFI started visiting Baddour Center.
Initially, RK smiled and seemed interested in seeing the dogs as they walked around the room, but he wanted to do this only from his usual vantage point, the classroom corner. RK would not leave his comfort zone to walk the dogs. He simply wanted to observe. When first asked to take the lead, RK assumed his “stubborn” stance and shake his head “no.” As time passed, the RFI and SAIL Teams successfully encouraged RK to leave his space, then to greet the dogs, and, eventually, to walk the dogs alongside the handlers. RK now raises his hand, volunteering repeatedly to walk the dogs. Now, RK dances with a wide grin on his face whenever the RFI volunteers tell him what a wonderful job he’s done. RFI even proudly now puts the lead across RK’s shoulder so that he can accompany the dogs outside to their crates when it’s time for them to go home. It’s part of RK’snewroutine.
While it’s Baddour Center’s mission to help people with intellectual disabilities grow in all areas of life, we are thrilled to be partnering with RFI, whom similarly helps others with various needs live fuller and richer lives. Thank you so much RFI for this incredible opportunity! We – and RK and his friends – are most grateful.