In a trauma-informed environment we must have sensitivities to the many ways that individuals can be regulated so that they can have the opportunity to make changes to overcome their deficits. At Lakeside our teachers and counselors work diligently to provide safe, regulating environments where students can be themselves, find support and learn how to change some of their negative behavior into positive responses to the stresses of school and life. This is essential growth that will enable them to make academic progress and be more emotionally balanced.
It is interesting to watch the effects when you add trained facility dogs to the school environment. Lakeside now has 5 dogs that are utilized by our 4 schools. We have dog handlers who make sure that our dogs are available to students when they arrive at school, when they have difficult or strategically important moments and just before they return home. The presence of our dogs makes a huge difference to our students, staff and our overall school environment.
It is not unusual for our students to have incredibly difficult moments Sometimes they get angry and other times they refuse to discuss their problem and emotionally shut down. In those moments we can be strategic and bring a dog to them for affection, acceptance, a friendly greeting and the constancy of sitting with them. In so doing they sense the comfort of their furry friend. We have had situations where a student has been in that isolated, depressed and/or angry place. They often are resistant to talk to their counselor and sometimes they do not talk at all. However, once we bring the dog into the room, they call the dog by name, give them a hug and all of a sudden, the world becomes more tolerable, hopeful and even positive.
It is incredible energy that the dog brings to their life.
We find that bringing a dog into our school environment offers new options for our students that are effective to facilitate relief, calm and regulation from the stresses of life and some of the internal processes that our students struggle with.
Our dogs become faithful friends for our students and can elicit a connection of trust that spurns the ability to better relate to our staff and to other students. It is exciting to see that our amazing dogs can have that kind of stress-reducing impact on our students and our schools.
“As interesting as it sounds, sometimes it just takes a dog! We have significant, daily evidence that dogs really help students in their stressful moments find a great deal of help and support.”
That help leads to new discussions and potentials for students to engage with our staff and the varied aspects of school life that can lead to healing, resolve and hope. This is just another part of providing comprehensive trauma-informed interventions that are so important to managing the emotions and responses of our students in their challenging world.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO