Mila received a dog from Canine Companions for Independence in February 2014 after attending two weeks of training with Mom and Dad and successfully graduating. Let me just say, she loves her dog! Kindy is her best friend. She cuddles with her daily, helps give her food and water and loves to play with her and brush her.
Mila has limited mobility in her upper extremities. She can hold a spoon, but has trouble taking it from the plate to her mouth and getting it into her mouth. She can hold a crayon, but fatigues easily. She can hold a tennis sized ball in her hand, but does not have the mobility in her arms to throw the ball. She can release ti from her hand, though the motion is labored and slow.
Mila wants to play with her dog. She had become increasingly frustrated at having to ask for help to play with Kindy. She needed someone to throw the toy. Kindy will bring it back to her and Mila can give her the command "give" so that Kindy knows that Mila has a hold on the toy/ball and she can release her grip on it. Mila would only "play" with Kindy for a few minutes before getting frustrated and giving up. It hurt my heart to see her so defeated.
Mila talks about Kindy continuously to anyone who will listen. If Kindy isn't with us, she is telling everyone she passes, "I have a service dog", "Kindy is at home". So it comes as no surprise that Mila talks about Kindy when she is at school. This spring as Mila's Occupational Therapist; Mrs. Kerns, was working with her, Mila began to talk about Kindy. Mila often needs refocused as she tends to go off in her own little world. Mrs. Kerns, knowing that Mila's IEP was coming up, asked Mila if she had any OT goals she would like to work on. Mila said "I would like to play ball with Kindy." And so, our great OT began to look for ways that she could adapt something so that Mila could play with Kindy with minimal or no help.
One day Mrs H; Mila's aide, came to my classroom (I teach in the same building the kids attend) and asked if I could come to the OT room that Mila had something she would like to show me. The giggle and smile were priceless when I arrived. "MOM.....LOOK! I can play with Kindy with this ball shooter, by myself!!!" She was ecstatic!
The ball shooter is a Franklin Sports Pitching Machine. It comes with six plastic balls. Thankfully, Kindy is trained not to chew on things, so the balls will last a while. Unfortunately, she is still a dog, and loves to attempt to catch the ball as its flying through the air, so there are some teeth marks in the balls. (Replacement balls are available!)
A battery interrupter was purchased.
These can be found on Amazon or any Special Needs catalog. A battery interrupter allows you to adapt your own toy to work with a capability switch.
Lastly, a switch was inserted into the battery interrupter.
Typically, without the battery interrupter, the pitching machine throws balls at a set interval. With the battery interrupter, the ball is only thrown when the user holds down on the switch to activate the machine.
Mila is happily playing with her dog! Though she often requests help from one of us or her sister to put the ball back into the machine, I have no doubt we could train Kindy to bring the ball back and drop it in the machine!