Therapy Dogs go to School!
A recent report highlighted children working with therapy dogs experienced increased motivation for learning, resulting in improved outcomes. Therapy dogs are being used to support children with social and emotional learning needs, which in turn can assist with literacy development. Research into the effects of therapy dogs in schools is showing a range of benefits including:
● Increase in school attendance.
● Positive changes towards learning and improved motivation, and
● Enhanced relationships with peers and teachers due to experiencing trust and unconditional love from a therapy dog. This in turn helps students learn how to express their feelings and enter into more trusting relationships.
Despite these known benefits, many schools choose not to have therapy dog programs due to perceived risks. These range from concerns about sanitation issues to the suitability of dog temperament when working with children. But therapy dogs and owners are carefully selected and put through a strict testing regime prior to acceptance into any program.
Both Skye and Hope have been Nationally Certified as Official Therapy Dogs by FURever as Friends and are recognized by the AKC:
- Skye, THDX: Silver Medal of Excellence with over 375 visits to schools, libraries, and hospitals across the State.
- Hope, THDX: Silver Medal of Excellence with over 200 visits to schools, libraries, and hospitals across the State
Within our Absecon Schools this year, in grades kindergarten through five, we will be implementing the Silent Mentors In Literacy Education Program (S.M.I.L.E.) under the direction of Ms. Wescoat and our newly revamped Library Program. The goal of the S.M.I.L.E. program is to improve, encourage, and nurture the literacy skills of children with the help of certified pet therapy pets in library and school settings. A child who has some reading difficulties or is hesitant to read aloud may find it more relaxing and less stressful reading to a pet than to a person because the pet doesn't judge, criticize or correct the child's reading. Our expert listeners, Skye and Hope, can be a FURever Friend!
In addition to the S.M.I.L.E. Program, Skye and Hope will be featured members of our school community. Under the guidance of their handlers, both dogs will assist in responding to students experiencing emotional duress and will take part in character education lessons throughout the year in all of our classrooms.
We are committed to providing a positive learning environment for your children, and will only include Skye and Hope in activities with your child with your consent. Not only do our handlers participate in a rigorous training process, but we remain in coordination with the school nurse regarding potential allergens as well. If you are interested in having your child benefit from this worthwhile experience, please see the attached Permission Slip and return to your child’s teacher at your earliest convenience.