From My Special Needs Network: (click for full article)
Hello! This week we are discussing therapeutic animals. While I see huge value in having a therapeutic animal, I have found that it is a subject that elicits many differing opinions. We all know about seeing-eye dogs and dogs that are trained to be a partner for a child (or adult) in a wheelchair and unable to be independent. But there are other ways a therapeutic animal can provide a “life-line” for children. I am a former Director of Special Education, so I have had direct experience with the trained animals and have seen first-hand the effect they have on some children. It was remarkable.
There was a self-contain learning disabled class at our intermediate school. In this class, there were several children with behavioral issues. As often is the case, the behaviors were interfering with academic achievement. (Does this sound familiar to anyone?) One of our teachers trained therapeutic dogs and came to me with a proposal to bring one of her dogs into the classroom with the children. Before agreeing, I did some research on the training of the animals and any empirical data that was available on the effects the dogs have on the children. I certainly got an education into this therapy. It has been substantiated that the animals have a calming effect on the children.