By. Teresa Marchant
For our elementary students, therapy dogs were just what the doctor ordered. Our students get to meet with “Fox” our therapy dog, on a rotating schedule. Initially, the idea started with the K-2 librarian. He became a reading buddy at first, but then the idea grew from there.
Having a therapy dog is not the same thing as a class pet. Using a certified therapy dog has many benefits.
Improve reading/oral fluency
Increase self esteem
Improve motor skills
Improve problem solving
We were fortunate to have started this program and students love spending time with him and have bonded with him over the years. Currently the program is run through the building secretary and the first priority is to support students’ behavior needs. Additionally, all students may earn the privilege of spending time with him.
We have other services available to help students and parents that are in crisis as well. Our school counselors are the first line of defense. They help identify students and families that would benefit from having additional resources available to them in order to be successful in school.
First, students have checkin/checkout sheets. These have been used to coordinate rewards such as time with our therapy dog. Initially students are identified either for social or behavior intervention using school wide behavior data. The students are then matched with a teacher. They must meet (checkin) every morning and before they leave (checkout) to see how things went. Some students thrive when given incentives. Together the student makes a goal and then they work towards it.
Next, with additional covid funds our school opened a Family Support Center. The counselors are available in the evenings for parents to help find resources for their families. Being available on the parents’ schedule has been life changing for families that are going through a crisis. Anything from helping with housing resources and escaping generational poverty to parenting classes. Supporting students and families is at the heart of this service!