SURF Dog Ricochet Responds to New iPad App and Helps Verbally-ChallengedPublished December 7, 2012
Four year-old SURF Dog Ricochet is an internationally renowned fundraising, award-winning service/therapy Golden Retriever with a heart a big as all outdoors. Using her uncanny and extraordinary talent to sniff out ways to be of service, she is both a loving canine and assistive aid, who has touched the hearts of people all around the world. But her fame never goes to her head. Her mom, Judy Fridono, describes Ricochet as “an ordinary dog with an extraordinary spirit.”
As a very special “teacher”, one of Ricochet’s most important missions is inspiring folks to be true to themselves. With no intention of changing them, her commitment to helping people to embrace who they truly are, and to focus on what they can do, results with a celebration of outcomes which are indisputably amazing!
In keeping with her imperative to search for ways to be of SURFice, Ricochet has recently broken new ground by responding to a synthesized iPad voice Touch Chat
Using this alternative communication app, certified goal directed therapy dog, Ricochet is now able to perform commands that are given to her by an individual who is verbally disabled without any cues from her handler. People with autism, Down syndrome, stroke and other verbal challenges can communicate directly with SURF Dog Ricochet, empowering them with a newly- found sense of self confidence and independence.
When Judy received a group email from the site coordinator at the Poway school asking if anyone owned an iPad she learned about the iPad Voice Chat program and began thinking about how Ricochet might incorporate it into her work
The coordinator was inquiring about an eighteen year-old student named Devyn with an intellectual disorder, who in May 2012 began using the TouchChat app on her iPad to “speak”. Renee Tompkins, the speech pathologist was interested in using her communication device while she worked with the therapy dogs. According to Tomkins, "It is important that Devyn have her 'voice' with her at all times, and that she is given the opportunity to express herself." She suggested that we program the device with dog commands so Devyn could interact with the dogs.
The Pawsitive Team site coordinator thought the handler could give a hand signal to the dog as Devyn touched the icon, so she would think the dog was responding to her. Judy wrote back saying she would give it a try. Judy was amazed at how quickly Ricochet understood her new tasks and how quickly she bonded with Devyn.
After watching the remarkable connection between Devyn and Ricochet using the iPad device, Tompkins said, "This is such an amazing thing for Devyn to experience. Not only is she able to communicate, it is obvious that her self-esteem and confidence shines while she is working with Ricochet! What a great tool for other students with intellectual disabilities and nonverbal students with autism to experience".
As a part of the Pawsitive Teams goal directed therapy dog program , this new and exciting communication device has been implemented by Tompkins at the Poway Unified School District Transition Program.
Watch Ricochet and Devyn communicating through the iPad Touch Chat app on the inspirational video uploaded to YouTube by docchat.
In finding ways to communicate don’t you agree it’s ability that counts? Share your thoughts in a comment.