Did you know there is a Facebook Group called ‘Dog Agility Therapy Autism’? Here its founder Blair Cochrane explains why he started the group 8 years ago…
“I work with autistic kids in a special school and was friendly with a teacher who knew about my love of dogs and agility. Her son started attending the school and she asked me if I could help in any way to get her son to interact with their dog. That was the start of a beautiful relationship between dog and boy and even when the dog sadly passed away, the boy still comes to agility and trains my Beagle.
The success of my intervention with this young person encouraged me to start Dog Agility Therapy Autism so that I could combine both my knowledge of dogs and my experience of autism and see where it would lead. It has ticked along and quite nicely and I now have 6 kids that train with me. One of them even competed at OJACS (Open Junior Agility Championships, run by Ant Clarke) recently.
My work at the school came about accidently… Every year I host an agility display for the kids. One child in particular had a culture-related dog phobia but, at the same time, was fascinated by my dog – albeit from a distance. Now that distance has closed so much so that once a week he now takes my dog for a walk around school holding the lead and playing with her, and this year he’s even going to be helping me with the agility demo.
Another school in the area had a child who could not walk to school as he was also dog phobic and there were far too many dogs about. I was asked to take my dog into school to see if I could help. In just 7 weeks we went from him being at one end of playground and dog at other end to him stroking and feeding her. The key with him was the colour red! It was his favourite, so I used a red coat, collar and lead to help him overcome his fear. He now walks to school with no issues.
My head teacher has had a request from another school who heard about me and have asked if I can visit their school, and an after school club has been in touch in the last couple of days to see if I’m available to visit. Dogs and agility really can impact positively on many mental health issues.”
About the Author
My name is Blair Cochrane I live just outside Meigle in Perthshire. For the last 20 years I have worked in a school for children with additional support needs as a Learning & Care Assistant. For the last 15 years, I have worked with kids who are autistic. I have been involved with Agility for 30 years this year and have been a Club Secretary in the past although I now have my own agility training called Blaircoch Agility which I set up 8 years ago. I have competed with Border Collies, Miniature Poodles and a Working Cocker Spaniel. I have been a judge for 25 years and judge up to and including Championship level.