Queensland’s Department of education announced recently that “many of our schools have enrolled new and very popular students — students who quickly becomes everyone’s best friends. Friends who provide calm support in stressful times, welcome with joy and are happy just to sit in silent friendship”. Those friendly faces are therapy dogs, and they are working wonders on school grounds.
The names vary from school to school but the love and support does not. Theodore, Woody, Solo and Hugo are just a few of the special dogs who spend time in our state schools.
Theodore is a therapy dog who attends Helensvale State High School. His owner and trainer, Tania Craig, is a teacher at the school.
“Theodore’s main role is to enhance social and emotional wellbeing. His presence can de-escalate behaviour and stress in our students,” Ms Craig said.
Theodore proudly wears his school uniform each day, attends assemblies and among many other duties, distracts anxious students during immunisations.
Group therapy dog Woody attends Bremer State High School with his owner and trainer, Sally Campbell, SEP Deputy Principal.
“Woody has been trained to work with many students rather than just one. Students embrace him as part of their ‘calm down strategy’ which involves them taking Woody for walks and being involved in his training and daily care,” Mrs Campbell said.
Like many students Hugo loves a game of football at lunchtime reveals Nicole Sherlock, Rosewood State High School Principal.
“As a therapy dog Hugo works in a range of classrooms provoking laughter and joy and reducing the symptoms of anxiety,” she said.
After 20 years working in special education, Benowa State High School’s Director of senior students, Lieve Rimbaut, understands how well students with disabilities relate to animals. She introduced Solo as a puppy, supporting students in the special education program (SEP).
“While Solo was introduced with the SEP students in mind, he has reached so many more kids. Our mainstream students love it when he’s out and about at lunch. Students who are lonely or struggle to make friends are our main focus. Solo draws the other students in, creating relationships between students,” Ms Rimbaut said.
Education support dogs provide many benefits within our schools, proving that sometimes the simplest solutions deliver the best results. Perhaps the greatest benefit is unconditional friendship.
As one student with a difficult home life revealed, “he makes me feel wanted”.