At the age of four, Tosha’s son received a diagnosis of Asperger’s, currently referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her determination to see him function at age appropriate levels drove her to “think outside the box”, and she became increasingly creative in finding new ways for him to learn and grow. When she incorporated the family’s French Bulldog, Zoe, into their therapy practice sessions, her son’s compliance changed radically and for the better. This was the breakthrough Tosha had been seeking. She also realized that she had an obligation to share her experience with other families of special needs children. And so, Pawsitive Friendships was born.
The mission of Pawsitive Friendships is to provide Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) to children with special needs, allowing them to build animal/human friendships while simultaneously working on their various therapy goals. Pawsitive Friendships is affiliated with clinics whose licensed therapists work one on one with each child, providing that child with individualized attention. As an organization, we recognize that while two children may share the same diagnosis, no two children’s goals are the same. Therefore, our services are specifically designed to allow each child to reach his or her desired goals.

Pawsitive Friendships currently has thirty-five volunteer registered Pet Therapy (one human/one animal) teams working at three clinics and four special education schools. In conjunction with the clinics’ and schools’ therapists and teachers, we assist more than one hundred and fifty special needs students each year. Aided by the gentle and unconditional love of our highly trained animals, our teams help these students improve physically, socially and emotionally, as well as in the areas of self-regulation and motivation. Our ultimate goal is to improve and strengthen both their skills and their character traits, giving them the added confidence they need in order to achieve their personal goals.
The national average for children diagnosed with Autism is 1 in 68, while Arizona’s rate is 1 in 64. One in 40 are boys. As for children in general with disabilities, Arizona’s rate is 4.3% compared with the national average of 5%. Arizona ranks second in the country as a state that provides services for children on the Autism Spectrum. And because the families of special needs children have overly large medical bills, Pawsitive Friendships offers our Animal Assisted Therapy to them for FREE.
As a registered nonprofit organization, Pawsitive Friendships receives no government funding and relies on the generosity of our community to sustain us. Among the many public fundraisers we host throughout the year, our most successful is “REV’D UP” for Autism Car and Bike show held in April, which has been designated as Autism Awareness month. We are also partnered with various local businesses as a community partner and are the happy recipient of several small grants.
Our mission and our dream? To provide FREE Animal Assisted Therapy to three hundred children in the Phoenix area by 2020.