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Our Dogs Teaching Communication in Schools

Our Dogs Teaching Communication in Schools

Our most popular unit this term: 'Communication on the inside and out'

Our 8 week unit ‘Communication on the inside and out’ is running twice in over ten schools for semester two, 2016.  A tutor and therapy dog work with small groups of students flagged by their school as needing a bit of extra help, some time out of regular classes, as anxious or at risk.  

Our key partners for this unit of work was:

Kildonan Uniting Care: Kildonan has a long history of pre-empting social trends and developing practical, innovative and holistic solutions that help individuals and communities get ahead of their problems.  They target the issues that can lead to personal or financial hardship, family stress or breakdown – tackling them upfront before problems take hold or worsen.  They work with government, businesses, statutory services and other community partners to ensure we can deliver such holistic, wrap-around services for the communities we serve, while advocating for social justice, systemic change and best practice social policy.

Headspace Greensborough: Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds, along with assistance in promoting young peoples’ well being. This covers four core areas: mental health, physical health, work and study support and alcohol and other drug services.  During our course representatives from Headspace ran one of the lessons, teaching our students about the psychology behind anxiety and where they can go for help.

The feedback was overwhelming:

Feedback from every angle has been very important to us.  Ultimately, in order to create curriculum that in innovative, effective and engaging, the students, the tutors and the AAT dogs have to be accountable to one another. The trust created in such an environment will allow us to ask and answer the hard questions -- "How am I doing as your tutor?" "Are the dogs facilitating a relaxed learning environment?" and "How am I doing as your student?" We are always interested in hearing the thoughts of students, teachers, schools and parents, and some of the feedback from our interested parties have given have shown us we are on the right track:

"Thanks so much Gemma and George for working with us each week. You made us feel important and helped us to learn strategies to work through our problems. We loved teaching George some tricks and he is so caring and gentle. The CC Program was the highlight of our week!"

"The Canine Comprehension program was a terrific addition to our social emotional learning at St Catherine's. The students thoroughly enjoyed each session particularly handling George the dog. I could see the students develop confidence and they willingly shared their emotions. The tutor Gemma was professional and gave good strategies for the students to use when they felt anxious. Some of the students in the program have made it clear that they would like to own a dog like George one day. "

"Our students loved the visits with Sarah and Minnie, during the 8 week program, their grew in confidence and were able to articulate strategies they could use to alleviate stress in their lives and talk themselves into a positive frame of mind. Minnie was a great at displaying the emotions that the students feel every day, and the students were comfortable to discuss Minnie's emotions while learning about their own! Would definitely recommend this program to schools looking to support anxious students! "