Therapy Dogs Are Used to Help Children with Autism at the Dentist

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A dental clinic in Santiago, Chile helps children with autism worried about dental appointments with the help of specially trained therapy dogs. For young children, dental appointments can be worrying, but for some children with autism, they can be terrifying, which can lead to them having to be sedated. The noise of the dental instruments, or the bright lights shone in their faces can be daunting.

This was the case with former dentist Raul Varela, who noticed how much calmer and better in social interactions his autistic child was after spending time with the family’s black Labrador. He then quit his job and became a therapy dog trainer for children with autism, starting a non-profit organisation that organises visits for these dogs to the dentist, named Junto a Ti (“Next to You).

The six dogs all receive specialist training, as whilst they are trained to be around children with autism, but the nature of dental care means they need to resist loud noises and stay still in children’s laps to calm them down.

The dogs have helped over 50 children, currently limiting their visits to a single clinic. The clinic pays $67 for each session with one of Junto a Ti’s dogs, although depending on the economic level of the family being treated, the charge for the child’s visit does vary.

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