Since 1920, the Ability Center has transformed lives of individuals in Northwest Ohio. Through their program Assistance Dogs Achieving Independence (ADAI), the Center has placed service and therapy dogs with individuals, allowing them to achieve greater independence. For more than thirty years, the Center’s highly trained dogs have offered support and companionship to children in schools as well as individuals with developmental disabilities. ADAI’s highest priority is to train service dogs for people with mobility disabilities.
Specialized, loving assistance
Mallory Tarr, Community Relations Specialist, explains the unique training that each dog must complete before being placed in a home. “At ADAI we train each dog to perform tasks that meet the individual needs of the client, both at home and in public,” she says. “These tasks may include opening doors, retrieving cordless phones, activating buttons or switches, tugging off clothing, carrying items, or providing balance while the client is walking.” The wait list for receiving an ADAI dog is 18-24 months. ADAI dogs can be helpful for children with a variety of disabilities such as spina bifida and muscular dystrophy. Ms. Tarr says the dogs have been particularly beneficial for children with autism and Down syndrome.
“The simple presence and loving nature of the dogs can help people with special needs open up to the world around them,” she emphasizes. “Their trained tasks can be used to meet therapeutic goals such as improving speech, coordination, and social skills.”
Parents and other supporters can get involved by donating to The Ability Center or by attending a fundraiser for the ADAI program. For those wishing to volunteer, socialization activities are held at the facility in Sylvania. If families have a home to share, fostering or puppy sitting can be rewarding.
Community outreach is an important part of The Ability Center’s various programs. “ADAI presents to local organizations, demonstrating the impact the dogs have on those who receive them,” Ms. Tarr explains.
Demonstrations and lectures are available for schools, churches, libraries, and other groups. ADAI is especially dedicated to educating the public regarding the benefits of the human/animal bond and the public access rights of people partnered with an assistance dog.
Positive outcomes for kids
For children who participate in the ADAI program, the benefits have been extremely encouraging. “Not only do the dogs support the physical needs of the person with the disability,” says Ms. Tarr. “They also provide comfort in stressful situations and give the child more confidence in social situations. Service dogs improve independence for a child by aiding in physical tasks while therapy dogs provide rehabilitation and companionship.”
ADAI staff take the time to partner each dog with the client that complements them, leading to successful placements and lifetime partnerships. Ms. Tarr says that as clients become familiar with The Ability Center’s programs, staff and culture, they realize that with the Center’s assistance, more is possible. “The work we do today will impact those who will use our services for years to come.”