January 21, 2021

Caring for Chamomile supports Ruth's emotional well-being

Professional mentor Audrey's emotional support dog helps Ruth feel safe

Ruth*, 6, is very talkative and outgoing, although she can be a little wary when meeting new people. Ruth first was enrolled in Childhaven, a partner organization serving youth from birth to five. Childhaven referred Ruth and her family to Friends of the Children so her professional mentor Audrey could be by her side when she started kindergarten.

The school introduced new dynamics to Ruth's life, so she wasn't quite ready for the number of new people she would encounter when she began kindergarten. At any given moment, Ruth would run out of class when she was bored or tired of an activity. Her teachers found it hard to help Ruth when she had trouble focusing due to her ADHD.

Often, when Audrey arrived to pick Ruth up from school, she was running out of class. Audrey, who is patient and kind, took things slowly. It was important for Audrey to meet Ruth at her level. Ruth felt like she was the "bad kid," and everyone at school felt the same way. It was essential for Audrey to remain consistent and show up, no matter what.

Ruth's family took charge to assess the situation. They wanted to understand why Ruth had difficulty focusing in class and had these urges to run. They learned that Ruth struggles with anxiety. With full confidence in her mentor, Ruth told Audrey she feared when her teachers and classmates looked at her. She felt like it was too much pressure to handle.

Audrey knew how to support her.

Audrey has faced similar fears and has an emotional support dog who fills her life with comfort and joy. Chamomile, a magnificent white fluffy Shih Tzu, can sense unbalanced emotions and supports emotional regulation. Audrey has had Chamomile for a year. The next time Ruth went out with Audrey, Chamomile came along. Ruth and Chamomile immediately connected. Ruth, who isn't usually very open with people she doesn't know, opened up much more quickly in Chamomile's presence. Her interactions were sweet and gentle. Audrey praised Ruth for her true nurturing and leadership skills while taking care of Chamomile.

After Ruth's diagnosis, she was placed in a kindergarten class with a social and emotional component to learning. She started to adjust to school. Her escapes from the classroom happened less and less frequently. This was a significant step in the right direction for Ruth. This new normal was perfect.

And then school shut down because of COVID-19, and Ruth's world shifted again.

After so much progress, Audrey was worried that Ruth would revert to her previous fears and behaviors. That fear increased when Ruth refused to talk to Audrey at all virtually. And when Audrey dropped off food, Ruth often fought her mom, who tried to get her to greet Audrey.

Audrey had to make sure Ruth knew that their relationship wouldn't change; it would just be different, and Audrey would be there for Ruth, no matter what.

It turned out that there was no need to worry because Audrey had the perfect buffer to help Ruth feel more at ease with the transition. That buffer was Chamomile. Audrey knew that Ruth is a huge animal lover. She adores Chamomile and has nothing but huge smiles when they're together. Ruth has done a fantastic job restarting outings and is transitioning well to the new school year. Chamomile may be Audrey's emotional support animal, but Audrey is delighted that she can share Chamomile's healing abilities with Ruth and her other outstanding mentees.

*Name changed to protect the youth's privacy.