by Jori Hamilton
Being a kid these days is different than it was in the ‘80s, ‘90s, or even early 2000s. They’re connected 24/7 to a constant stream of chatter with social media and don’t get as much exercise as they should. Furthermore, getting an education today poses challenges that you might have never considered. Educators, administrators, and school support staff must keep children safe from school shootings, bullying, and stress like never before.
Being a supportive and loving adult is critical to a child’s success. However, sometimes the best teacher’s assistant comes strolling in on four legs. They wear collars and give kisses when kids least expect them. We’re are talking about therapy dogs, and their value in classrooms from elementary school to college is undeniable. Highly skilled, lovable, and adorable therapy dogs can perform miracles in as little as one visit with children and young adults.
Believe it or not, the use of animal-assisted therapy dates back to the Ancient Greeks, where horses visited the ill to lift their spirits. In the 1960s, Dr. Boris Levinson conducted the first formal research on the effects of animal therapy after discovering that his dog helped some of his patients with mental impairments. He observed that dogs provided comfort and improved his patients’ ability to communicate with other people. By 1989, the Delta Society created a certification program for the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Completion of the program gave dogs the designation of a therapy dog and the job of helping others for a lifetime.
We get it — not everyone loves dogs as much as we do. However, we’re firm believers that anyone that takes the time to review the data will understand the benefits of therapy dogs in classrooms. A few of the positive effects include:
• Stimulation of memory and problem-solving skills
• Lowered blood pressure and pain levels
• Elevated mood, decreased anxiety, and an increase in laughter
• Friendship and companionship
• Improved self-esteem and interaction with others
Allowing dogs to visit isn’t just about fun and games. These skilled and trained dogs must be well-tempered and socialized. Here are a couple of the skills and tasks dogs can provide in classrooms:
Helping With Autism