School Therapy Dogs

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Animal Assisted Therapy / Interventions

Therapy VS Interventions
AAT VS AAI

The term "therapy" is not used in a school counseling model.  However, when working with professionals outside the school setting AAT or Animal-Assisted Therapy is the term used when a client has a specific goal they are working on during the session with the handler and animal.  When I am working with a student at school and the student has a specific goal, the term "intervention" is used.   When I am talking with school staff or parents, I use the term "animal-assisted intervention".  When I am talking to another therapy dog team that doesn't work in the schools, I use the term "animal-assisted therapy".

R.E.A.D. Program
Reading Retriever

If you are interested in having students read to your dog, then you need to contact Intermountain Therapy Animals.  

www.therapyanimals.org

They have put together an excellent, research-based reading intervention program called Reading Education Assitance Dogs or 

R.E.A.D. 

Working in a school with an RtI process is ideal for referral of students into a R.E.A.D. program and documentation.

I am a member of our Problem Solving Team.  This is a group of school professionals that meet to discuss students who are struggling in school. I have seen the best results when there is a combination of struggles in reading and issues with low self-esteem.  Using data from Dibels testing, I can document improvements in fluency and comprehension.  

Each time Copper reads with a student, he or she reads the story to Copper, retells what happened and then picks a vocab word for Copper. Depending on the specific reading goal for the student, I tailor how much time we spend on each area. 

Copper also presents the student with a bookmark at their first session.  Each time they read or complete a book, they select a sticker to put on their bookmark. 



School Counseling Social/Emotional Goals

I have several students that work with Copper on Social/Emtional Goals.  To measure results for this program I have a pre/post intervention questionaire that the parents/guardian and classroom teacher complete. 

There are 5 primary steps that Copper and I follow in this program.

1.  Dog Communications - the student learns about basic dog body language.  We watch a video of dogs playing and then discuss human communications.  What message does our body language or words send to others - including Copper.

2.  Dog Care - In this section, the student become responsible for Copper's water, brushing and equipment.  They learn how to put on and take off the harness, vest and leashes.  

3.  Basic Dog Training - Student learn about clicker training and basic commands in the Rally Program.

4.  Rally Course - Together we watch teams compete in Rally Obedience.  I then set up a very basic Rally course for Copper and the student to go through.

5.  Class Presentation/Parting Gift - the last session is spent in the students' classroom where they demonstrate working with Copper.  Copper provides the student a certificate and picture of them working together. 

Occupational Therapy

I am very fortunate to have an outstanding OT professional working at our school.  We have just started to work together.  The OT professional leads the session with the student.  Copper and I support her work in motivating the student to complete the physical tasks.  

Classroom Environment / Test Anxiety

Copper has recently started attending a math class once a week.   We asked students to fill out a simple 5 point scale of how much they like math class.  We hope that after Copper for several weeks, our scores will improve.  Copper is also available while students are testing. Students can pet Copper during this time.  We have also seen success when the student reads the question aloud to Copper and then verbally explains how they are trying to solve the equation.  

Focus/Attention Goals

Twice a year, I send a needs survey out to teachers to align my work with their classroom needs.  Recently, I have had significant feedback to work with students on focus and attention goals.  A therapist at Touchstone (Larimer County Mental Health) suggested I look at Simon Says Pay Attention developed by Daniel and Marcie Yeager.  I am now integrating Copper into the games and exercises outlined in this program.  

Small Group - Blending Families

Copper is worn out.  He has been puppy sitting his 10 month-old 1/2 brother and sister for the past 5 days.  The stories about this adventure are being woven into a lesson for a group of students who are experiencing the ups and downs of blending families.  What did Copper do when his sister took his favorite toy?  What about when his brother chased away his BFF, Jackson the cat?  How did he teach them to guard the chickens and learn the rules at the farm? These questions generate discussions that can be transfered to experiences of students in the group.