Can therapy dog programs improve student outcomes?
- Schools nationwide stand to benefit from the use of therapy dog programs, according to a blog post from advocacy organization Companion Animals.
- For students struggling with emotional or learning disorders or difficult relationships, therapy dogs offer a cost-effective, comforting presence that can help them focus, though doing so also requires a fair amount of work, coordination and support, the post notes.
- Any dog that passes training and temperament testing can be eligible for therapy dog certification, and one program cited by Companion Animals assists students in improving literacy by having them read to dogs.
Therapy dogs can offer significant benefits in schools, and with April marking National Autism Awareness Month, it's especially worth considering their potential impact for students with learning disabilities. For many students, self-doubt and a sense of belonging are the greatest hindrances to learning. The comforting presence of a therapy dog can help alleviate those feelings and pave the way for other social interactions.
But schools must also consider a number of other factors in adopting such a program, such as student allergies and potential liability issues that come with having animals in the classroom. Finding the right balance is critical, but with research there to back up the effects of animal-assisted therapy in schools, it's an option worth investigating.
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