Milly the dog helps Zach improve his speech and language

Zach Holmes lives in Bath and has cerebral palsy and Vicky Millgate, who provides speech and language therapy to Zach, offered the additional help of Milly.

Milly has passed the appropriate assessments to work as a therapy dog and assists children through interactive tasks by initially giving them something to talk about. She can help relax, motivate, build confidence and help children to communicate.

Vicky, a Specialist Speech and Language Therapist with Bath and North East Somerset Community Health and Care Services, said, “Zach started working with Milly in the summer of 2018. Initially we would hide Milly’s training toy outside and Zach and another child would direct Milly to find them. This has helped Zach to work on his language development and social communication.

“Milly has assisted me in my work with both my preschool and school age children. Children who have been reluctant to attend or engage in sessions have benefitted from Milly’s presence and Milly has helped me build relationships with harder to reach children. Milly has contributed to the general well-being of the speech and language therapy team too. Everyone loves a cuddle with Milly when she’s in the office.”

Isla Holmes, Zach’s mother, explained how Milly has been beneficial to Zach’s development.

“I loved the idea of introducing a dog. My husband and I had been talking about getting a family dog for a while now. It took Zach a little while to warm up to the new experience with Milly but Zach has really enjoyed it and responds well to Milly. She is the perfect therapy dog for Zach as she is very affectionate and calm.

“Zach can get frustrated at times and it was good for him to learn to wait for Milly to follow his commands. We talk about Milly a lot at home and when he is due to see her he is excited. We say we are going to play with Milly rather than going to another hospital appointment!

“It definitely has benefited and motivated him.  It was a great motivator for his speech and language and he was in control. Interaction can be tricky for Zach because he relies on adult input. But with Milly he didn’t need a lot from us and he can take control.  It’s nice to have something real to focus on and he loves taking her for walk.

“Zach goes to a lot of hospital and therapy appointments but this one is a nice experience and he looks forward to seeing Milly. We are grateful for the opportunity and hopefully one day we will have a family dog.”

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