Raquel is our first ever Advanced Handler with Olly the Therapy Dog in Victoria.
Raquel has worked in behaviour support with animal assisted intervention since January 2021 and has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminology. She works with all ages and has experience working with individuals with autism as well as other disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, intellectual disability, and global development delay.
Raquel and Olly help people we support in Victoria. Working with animal assisted intervention can help with anxiety, education and skill building, developing regulation strategies, sensory motor skills, and building self-confidence and is excellent at rapport building.
Raquel says, “Some clients can be uncomfortable with eye contact, and have difficulty holding a conversation or engaging independently with people. These clients often feel more comfortable with Olly as he allows them to focus on him and ask familiar questions about him. They then independently engage in conversation with me in future sessions and are more willing to have me come back as they look forward to seeing Olly again.”
Olly the dog, wearing his harness
Raquel says Olly has a real knack for motivating the people we support. “Support staff have reported that people with physical disabilities move their body more to engage with Olly, in ways that they wouldn’t be motivated in other situations.”
Animal assisted intervention can also help with many areas of skill building and communication development.
Raquel says, “I often get people to do trick training with Olly, which teaches them how to use assertive language and gives them a great sense of accomplishment when they teach Olly a trick.”
Olly is also great at getting people talking about their emotions Raquel says, “Talking about emotions and feelings can be quite difficult for some people, so I often start by discussing how Olly is feeling and what visible signs we can see in Olly to tell us how he feels. This helps them relate and feel more comfortable talking about their own emotions. It is a great skill for them to practise to be able to verbalise their feelings before a situation escalates.”
Dog Therapy has an incredibly calming effect as it naturally releases oxytocin (the love drug)! This can reduce stress and anxiety, as well as improve concentration and memory.
“Oxytocin can help reduce stress, and anxiety; making people we support feel more relaxed, accepting and accepted. This can help with feeling more comfortable and they trust me more to socially engage when Olly is there.” Raquel says.
Dog therapy is best in the natural environment and can look different for every client. Raquel uses her first session to analyse how people interact with Olly, then she develops a custom plan for future sessions, where Olly helps them achieve their goals.
Interested in a session with Raquel and Olly? Get in touch with our NDIS team or call us on 1300 770 145.