I have been writing about interventions we use at Lakeside to help our students self-regulate. Because they can self-regulate, they are in better control of their brain state and emotions as they handle the normal stresses of the school day. It has been challenging, insightful and particularly helpful to our students and staff to add this dimension to our educational programs. But what about a facility dog?
What a facility dog can do for special needs students
Another recent intervention has been recommended for students who have special needs: a dog.
For years, dog owners have acknowledged how wonderful it is to have a dog. There is just something about having a dog that is calming and enjoyable, especially if you are a dog lover. I know how great it is when I come home every day and my Australian Shepherd greets me enthusiastically with her wagging back end. She just adds to the peace and joy in my home and family.
One new brain-based intervention application is a therapy dog for educational facilities.
Many of us have heard of therapy dogs which are trained to work one-on-one with a blind or disabled client or patient. Usually these dogs provide help for individuals in hospitals, or clinical settings or for certain children and adolescents who have significant diagnoses or situations with critical needs for stress reduction. Therapy dogs provide a calming and supportive environment by their presence with the individual.
Therapy dogs are also being used with a variety of special needs children and adolescents. They have helped enhance learning, control volatile emotions, and reduce stress. Additionally, the dog provides a sense of focus and purpose. Petting and playing with the dog is calming, too.
Therapy dogs are usually focused on one individual at a time.
Another way to utilize dogs is through what is now called a facility dog. These are dogs that are effective in settings of multiple individuals, in which each person is able to approach the dog, pet the dog, receive the dog’s acceptance, and benefit from the dog’s capability to reduce stress and bring a sense of calm.
Therapy dogs for facilities are specially trained for these purposes. The dogs possess a temperament and capability to perform a number of specific commands to engage with the children and help them focus and cope with the stresses of the day.
We have had one of these dogs visit our campus. Immediately, the students were enthusiastic and excited to have a dog on campus and available to them. One student said that he would love to come to a school that actually has a dog like this one!
So, now we are on the list to have one or more facility dogs become a part of one of our schools.
We are thrilled to have this opportunity to encourage our students and look forward to the impact of one or more facility dogs.
Perhaps I can share some stories very soon about how this great asset will help our students become more balanced emotionally and better able to focus on their academics, personal lives, and success of their goals.
We will be looking forward to our own facility dog and hope that other schools will consider providing a facility dog for the students that they serve.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network