Therapy dogs

Psychology students piloted a program to train canine companions for use in the BW Speech Clinic.

Psychology students train therapy dogs for specialized speech therapy

May 30, 2017

Therapy dogsIn a new twist to the Baldwin Wallace University therapy dog training program, psychology majors and minors piloted training canine companions for use in the BW Speech Clinic. The dogs are trained to assist adults suffering from aphasia, a language disorder often resulting from a stroke or brain tumor.

Exploring alternative treatments

According to Dr. Amy Engelhoven, assistant professor of communications sciences and disorders at BW, "As clinicians, we explore alternative treatments to supplement our practice. This can include music therapy, art therapy and pet therapy. People with aphasia have difficulty speaking and sometimes understanding, but they have not lost their intellect."

Dr. Charles Levin, professor of psychology at BW and his wife Rivienne, a therapist and supervisor at OhioGuidestone, created this mutually-beneficial program that involves BW students in the training of OhioGuidestone therapists' dogs.

Early speech successes

The Levin’s Great Dane, Luca, the first certified graduate of the BW training program, is now the first to work with Dr. Engelhoven’s patient group in the BW Speech Clinic.

"We found that in the first session, the patients were more spontaneous in their utterances and their non-verbal communication was also very enhanced," Dr. Engelhoven explains.

"They smiled and interacted with one another a bit more with the presence of the dog. In general, I believe it was very successful and provided a sense of community for the group members," Engelhoven added.

Bonus BW benefit

The presence of the therapy dog training program on campus offers a benefit for the entire BW community, too. During BW’s most recent spring finals week, eight therapy dogs, Luca, Izzie, Chloe, Wickett, Dakota, Finn, Baxter and Dolly, made appearances at Ritter Library, offering a calming presence for students studying for exams.