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BJ does a lot of research on the breeder


and their dogs, and tends to work with people who are like-minded in that they want to make a difference in a child’s life too. “Because we’re dealing with children’s lives, safety and liability are two huge factors for my need to know about the breeding lineage of the dogs,” BJ said. Matching the dog with a child is an


ongoing process. It starts with a phone call, then a face-to-face meeting with the family at the Project Chance campus. Afterwards, there is a home visit, then the application. The families will provide an IEP (Individualized


The rotation process and various activities


allow BJ and her team the opportunity to observe how the children and dogs are inter- acting. Dogs the children start out with are not always the dogs they end up with. “There may need to be adjustments along the way and another dog may be better suited for the child’s needs,” said BJ. She recommends families reside within a reasonable driving distance of Project Chance’s training center to facilitate ease of access during the required training sessions. When BJ was first working in her field as a special needs teacher, she brought her dog


Messages Project Chance has received from friends and parents of children with autism on the following dogs: “Ozlow makes the mad go away.” a student in Ozlow’s class.


“Crosby has a magic about him. That’s all I can say, he has magic.” Thomas’ mother.


“Whatever the problem or whatever the issue, Summit is the antidote, no matter what.” Ayden’s mother.


Education Program) that spells out the child’s specific learning needs for special education services. When the dogs are five months old, they


go into rotation with the children and their families, who have already been briefed on what is expected of them. Expectations include a commitment to meet regularly with trainers, other children and dog teams for social, behavioral and recreational activities. “The first three things the family learns


about are the ADA, Florida State Statute and dog obedience,” said BJ.


www.TheNewBarker.com


into the classroom one day. Instantly, the envi- ronment in the room was calm. That’s when the idea of pairing children and dogs to affect a positive behavioral change came to her. BJ combined her teaching and more than


30 years as a professional dog trainer to launch Project Chance in 2008. To date, 50 service dogs have been placed with families of chil- dren with autism. Ten classroom therapy dogs have been trained and are being utilized in schools. Autism assistance dogs are not typical service dogs since their primary goal is to provide emotional support.


(Above): Bunker resting his paw on Zac’s foot. They are an inseparable pair and live in Jacksonville with Zac’s younger sister Carlie, who is eight, and parents, Sara and Charles.(Opposite page): Bunker rests his head on 12 year-old Zac.


Continued g Winter 2018 THE NEW BARKER 47


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