A new member of the team at Tennessee-based Patterson Physical Therapy offers a unique service to the community: Assistance Dog Training, for those with physical disabilities.

Occupational Therapist and Dog Trainer

Molly Jean Schantz, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist and dog trainer. She works primarily with the client/handlers to teach them how to train their dogs to meet their personal needs and goals. Dogs can be trained for: mobility, balance, picking items up off the floor, turning on and off lights, carrying or holding items, seizure alert, deep pressure therapy, crowd control, waking a handler up as an alarm, opening and closing doors, assisting with activities of daily living such as making the bed or opening the fridge for an amputee, as well as for companionship and safety – for example, assisting an individual with anxiety to leave the house, according to a media release from Patterson Physical Therapy.

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Molly lost her mother to suicide in June of 2014, and shortly after, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the pain and anxiety that haunted her since she was the one to find her mother. Through the pain she endured, she found her Silver Lining: Gunner, her PTSD service dog, which she trained herself, the release explains.

“The most important thing that I did after the loss of my Mom was to get a companion to help me deal with my emotions. By training my puppy to become a PTSD service dog, I created tasks for myself that required self-discipline, such as training, walking, and feeding schedules, while providing myself with structure as well as a source of joy,” she says.

Client-Centered Interventions

Using her background in psychology and occupational therapy, she provides client-centered, occupation-based interventions enabling her clients to maximize their potential and lead independent and meaningful lives. This strengthens the human-animal bond and can be more cost-effective than buying an already-trained assistance animal.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Service Animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. The dog must be specially trained to assist the handler with something directly related to his or her disability.

Someone who may benefit from an assistance dog would include those with a diagnosis of: PTSD, Autism, Sensory processing disorder, Narcolepsy, Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), cerebral palsy, or anyone with a physical disability that limits function in everyday life such as an amputee, stroke, or even arthritis, per the release.

For more information, visit Patterson Physical Therapy.

[Source(s): Patterson Physical Therapy, PR.com]