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Susquehanna Service Dogs Keystone Therapy Dogs
Keystone Therapy Dogs (KTD), a program of Susquehanna Service Dogs, is a group of specially trained individuals and dogs that provide professional-level therapy visits throughout south central Pennsylvania. They primarily focus on supporting children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Please note that SSD does not train privately owned pet dogs to become therapy dogs.
Keystone Therapy Dogs is made up of SSD volunteers, SSD staff and Keystone Children & Family Services staff who have completed special training to work with individuals with disabilities and provide therapies with dogs. They also complete training to work with individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. In addition to this specialized training, all KTD staff and volunteers must pass a criminal background check and gain child abuse clearance.
All of our therapy dogs have passed therapy dog tests administered by SSD, Therapy Dogs International, the Delta Society or other recognized therapy dog testing programs. KTD participates in animal-assisted therapies, interventions and educational interventions with specific goals, methods and recorded outcomes. We also participate in casual animal-assisted activities.
Therapy dogs support individuals in many ways:
- Assisting with the language development of children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Providing a diversion for women confined to prolonged periods of bed rest prior to the birth of a child
- Encouraging preschoolers to develop social and emotional skills appropriate to their age group
- Facilitating communications skills for individuals with psychiatric disorders
- Stimulating patients with Alzheimer’s to engage in conversation and to interact with others
Our KTD teams visit:
- Pinnacle Health Psychiatric Unit
- Head Start classrooms
- Reading programs
- Retirement and nursing homes
- Libraries and other public places
Therapy dogs also assist us in evaluating prospective partners for SSD service dogs. When families apply for a service dog or companion dog to assist their child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, they must participate in four therapy sessions with a therapy dog. At least one of these sessions must take place in public and another in their home. With the assistance of the therapy dogs, families gain an understanding of the realities of a service dog and learn ways the dog can support their child in a therapeutic setting. Families also have the opportunity to see how their child reacts to the dog. These therapy sessions give SSD the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the child’s needs, which will help us pair the child with a dog who will be a good match for his or her needs.
Some of our specially trained demo therapy dogs work with Head Start staff to assist children with behavioral concerns. Therapy dogs can help children learn to interact with each other and develop language skills. If you’re interested in having one of these specially trained dogs visit your facility, please email ssd @ keystonehumanservices.org. SSD does charge a fee for this service.