Therapy dogs are quite popular these days in schools across the United States. While people may traditionally associate the canine helpers with visits to sick children or senior residents in nursing homes, therapy dogs are expanding their roles in many communities. Therapy dog specialists are able to work with schools to determine different ways they may be integrated into classrooms or sessions to assist children.
Reading and Speech Buddies
Kids who are in speech and language sessions may be very self-conscious. They have a more difficult time coming out of their shell and getting comfortable with others. This could be due to a language barrier due to being multilingual. It may also be from slower processing and talking. No matter what the rationale for their speech and language sessions, they need to be able to practice their speech skills. This is where therapy dogs are perfect. They are great listeners and do not judge a child. They will sit there giving them full attention. The kids don’t have to wait their turn and can keep on talking.
The canines are also wonderful at listening to a child practice their reading skills. Older children may be upset with their slow reading fluency. Being able to practice a book, poem, story, or any other reading is great for these children. They don’t have to worry about a peer saying they are too slow. They can go at their own pace and work on reading aloud.
Greeting, Anxiety Relief, and Trauma Pals
Some students may have a difficult time with being in school. Therapy dogs are a nice resource to calm children and welcome them. The canines are trained to sense stress. When they do, they are able to go over to a child in need and simply be there for them. Many kids will calm down, pet the dog, and be able to settle into their day. This is a safe way for many children to be greeted and ease into the school day which may otherwise be filled with anxiety.
In addition to this, therapy dogs may also be present in calming rooms which are filled with items for kids who need to leave the classroom environment. The room is usually filled with soft lights, calming sounds, and spaces where they are able to decompress. The canines are another resource in the room which will provide a calming effect for students. They may sit with them and provide additional comfort and a soothing support who will listen to them while unwinding.
If looking into therapy dogs, it is important to make sure they are trained properly. Therapists should be sure to notify families at home to let them know how the canines will be used with their children. Make sure there are information sheets about therapy dogs with translations for multilingual families along with a way for anyone to contact you with any questions.