Graduate Testimonial"As a practitioner of Animal Assisted Therapy (mental health therapy dog) for more than 7 years, I have found the AAT Certification Program at Oakland University to be the foundation that is essential for the professional use of this methodology. The knowledge and skill sets related to the professional utilization of AAT are identified and then the student's development is guided and measured every step of the way while tailored to the particular needs of each participant."
— John W. Streeter, MA, MAC, NCC, LPC
Hi, Amy – I thought you’d enjoy hearing the latest news about the program we launched here last summer with the Deer’s Head Hospital recreation therapy staff based on my OU AAT program cornerstone project. The summer 2013 pilot program, managed by Shelli Beers of the staff, assisted by a summer intern, Haley Naugle, went very well and was deemed such a success that the clinical director encouraged the RT staff to make it a permanent part of their program, baked into care plans, regularly scheduled, all the bells and whistles.
Then, later in the fall, Susan Lynch, a professor of therapeutic recreation at Longwood University, who had taught Shelli, encouraged Shelli to submit a seminar proposal on our program in response to the call for papers of the Mideast Symposium on Therapeutic Recreation (MESTR) for its annual conference in Ocean City, MD (nearby for us), which took place earlier this week. Our proposal was accepted back in Februay, and we began preparing a 90-minute presentation on our program. (By the way, in the early going, I changed the name of the program to “TRAC” (Therapeutic Recreation Assisted by Canines) form my original “DART,” because people around here, next to the Delaware state line, associate DART with the Delaware public transportation system, which goes by that name! Also, I learned that “therapeutic recreation” is the preferred term among many in this field.)
At some point, as we were awaiting word on whether our seminar proposal would be accepted, I was reviewing the guidelines posted on the MESTR website and noticed that the organization also gives an annual award for “Best New Program of the Year.” I encouraged Shelli to ask their clinical director to nominate TRAC, and that nomination was submitted in time for consideration.
We gave our seminar at MESTR in Ocean City last Sunday afternoon, just after the keynote address. It was one of several “break-out” offerings in that time slot (all for CEU credit, by the way), but our conference room was packed – probably 50-60 attendees. Shelli introduced the program, then Murphy (my older Berner) and I addressed the group for about 40 minutes. Our job was to present how we got into AAA/AAT, how we formed our group, the Wicomico Wagsters, the AAA/AAT distinction, how we moved from AAA to AAT through my work in the OU certificate program, the pilot program proposal and the collaborative work we entered into with the Deer’s Head RT group to test and implement TRAC. Then Haley went into the details of the program. We wrapped up with Murphy assisting in demonstrations and generally entertaining a little, some Q & A, etc. We displayed pages and slideshows from the Wagsters website, also a product of my OU AAT program last year, to expand our presentation to include discussion of other special needs populations that can be effectively served through AAT. Shelli also utilized a very attractive power point program with photos from TRAC sessions and related content.
The attendees submitted evaluations that were overwhelmingly positive, we received many gracious compliments at the end of the seminar, Murphy posed with participants for numerous snapshots, and we had a great time. For the icing on the cake, at the closing ceremony for the conference yesterday, “TRAC at Deer’s Head Hospital” was awarded “Best New Program of the Year.” This is a high honor for Shelli and her team, and, I think, a tribute to you, Amy, and the OU AAT certificate program for providing me with so much knowledge and encouragement last year. I’m attaching a copy of the MESTR 2014 program schedule, listing our TRAC seminar (Sunday, 3:45-5:15), Shelli’s brief outline for our presentation, a set of annotated references based on my paper, which we distributed to attendees, a photo of our “Best New Program” certificate, and an “autographed” Wagsters postcard featuring Murphy and Zeke, which we also gave to attendees. Also, the Wagsters website includes a page on Deer’s Head where you can find a slideshow I prepared on “TRAC” with “action shots” form our sessions. Here’s a direct link to that page: http://wicomicowagsters.org/deer-s-head-hospital.html. (Click on the right arrow (>) in the upper left corner of the opening slide to start the slideshow.) One of the Deer’s Head staffers in the audience took some pictures that I haven’t seen yet, but there may be some good ones for use in a new slideshow on the seminar, which I may being posting soon.