For our elementary students, therapy dogs were just what the doctor ordered. Our students 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.
Having a therapy dog is not the same as having a class pet. Using a certified therapy dog has many benefits.
Improve reading/oral fluency
Improve motor skills
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 building secretary runs the program, and the priority is to support students’ behavior needs. Additionally, all students may earn the privilege of spending time with him.
We also have other services available to help students and parents in crisis. 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 to be successful in school.
First, students have check-in/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 (check-in) 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 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!
Lastly, teachers organized monthly school-wide behavior celebrations. Specialty area teachers nominated students meeting that month’s expectations and then selected students from each grade level to be recognized. This also promotes a positive school climate by having monthly assemblies and a fun way to end the month.
There are different ways to help students and families when they are having a rough time. For many, the past few years have been challenging for our students and families, but knowing where to turn for support has been a massive win for our district!
Written by Freelance Writer/Blogger: Teresa Marchant
School Librarian at LOCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT 26