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Animals as Therapy

Animals are well known for being faithful companions, but there is a growing movement to include animals within schools to help with concentration, interaction and confidence

Dogs are proving particularly popular within the Cavendish Group and at Gretton School Darcey the Dachshund belonging to Gretton’s Head Teacher Zoe Kirby, is regularly ‘loaned out’ to classes.

Zoe says, “Stressed children immediately lower their voices when Darcey is around; she is a very calming influence and they really enjoy spending time with her. Some children are nervous around dogs but she’s so gentle that she’s even encouraging the most hesitant of students to join in.

“They love to take her outside and run around with her, getting in some physical activity and being free to play. We even have a rota for dog walking because she’s so popular!

Zoe continues, “It was a joy to see one of our students outside with Darcey recently. He usually avoids playing outside because he really doesn’t like grass or mud, but he happily followed Darcey outside to play and because he was focused on her, it helped him to put aside his dislikes. Everyone was really proud of him and Darcey’s role in that.”

At The Holmewood School, William the labrador, owned by drama teacher Deborah Ward,  is going through a special training programme with Autism Life Dogs to allow him to become an official autism support dog.

He has started to make regular visits to class and the students are having fun as he learns how to ‘squish’ them! Deborah explains that this involves him lying over a student’s lap to help them feel more secure and less inclined to have a behavioural outburst. William’s next task will be to begin to support students during drama lessons.

Head Teacher Lisa Camilleri says, “Research has shown that autism assistance dogs can provide safety and companionship, bring independence and improve social inclusivity. They also undoubtedly provide comfort and can reduce stress.  Will is a very popular addition to the team here at Holmewood!”

Charles, aged 13 said, “I like him, he makes me feel relaxed.”  Jaden, aged 12 added, “I can’t wait for him to join our drama lessons.  He makes me feel really happy!”

At Bredon School, it’s not just dogs that are being used to enhance the student’s learning. Down on the School Farm the animals enable students to learn vital skills and responsibilities from feeding and caring for the animals’ well-being, to working together in teams to ensure the animals have sufficient water and clean bedding.

Farm Manager Jenny Parkes says, “Being with the animals in this environment helps to create a love of nature and a knowledge of habitats. Students can achieve their goals and build self belief whilst being outside in the fresh air and learning practical skills. The animals definitely allow students to de-stress”.

All the Schools within the Cavendish Education Group have access to farms and other outdoor learning opportunities.

8 May 2017

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