A pediatric therapy program and a local humane society have formed a partnership that is making inroads among children with autism.
Whether it is sensory, emotion or communication, therapy dogs are giving children confidence to achieve their goals at a much faster pace.
At Adventist Paulson Pediatric Rehabilitation Center in Hinsdale, 17-year-old Christopher Haines is working with Leila Mae, Glory, and Marley as part of his weekly therapy.
"When they come in the door, I just pet them," said Haines. "They have to come and sit."
Prior to pet therapy, Christopher was afraid of dogs. It was challenging for him to go outside or to into homes with dogs.
Kathy Serikatu is Christopher's occupational therapist. She says there are different goals for each child.
"The therapy goal might be the child is tactilely defensive or doesn't like to touch things so being able to pet the dog helps with that or being able to give a dog a treat off their hand is very tactilely orientated," said Serikatu. "When they find they can do it with the dogs then it makes it easier to do with other things."
Trained dogs and their owners volunteer at the Hinsdale Humane Society's Pet Therapy program.
"Care is part of the Pet Therapy program so Hinsdale Humane Society 's mission is not only to adopt homeless pets and find them forever homes but also to enrich our community," said public relations director Christie Cuthbert.
Christopher's mom, Karen, has seen great improvement in her son from pet therapy.
"He feels confident now that he knows stop command, sit commands; he has more confidence if he is alone and around a dog," said Karen Haines.