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Pet therapy and its relation to academic achievement

Students from DeltLearning Center Crestwood greet Lucky Siberian husky during pet therapy. | Supplied Photo

Students from the Delta Learning Center in Crestwood greet Lucky the Siberian husky during pet therapy. | Supplied Photo

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Updated: January 31, 2013 6:01AM



The scene could fool anyone.

Certainly, students at the Delta Learning Center in Crestwood and Summit Learning Center in Robbins enjoyed their time with Mariah and Lucky. Smiles, laughter, and the easy talk of teenagers relaxed and happy made that plain.

These are schools, however, so one might wonder how these kids gained from spending a class period with therapy dogs.

Delta serves general education students primarily for credit deficiency, but also for attendance and minor behavioral issues. It also serves students dealing with anxiety and depression.

Summit serves special-education students identified with emotional or behavioral problems that interfere with education.

“For our students, animal-assisted therapy is used primarily for decreasing anxiety and depression and to release tension or frustration,” said SLC social worker Lori Boillat.

Student Ebony Fields knows this as well as anyone. It’s her third year with Lucky, Mariah and friends.

“I think dog therapy is a very good way to relieve stress,” she said. “It helps keep me calm and makes me feel happier. It helps ease my mind a lot.”

The pets connect with students easily.

“In addition to the decreased anxiety and depression, this program helps build self-esteem and confidence,” Boillat said. “We want to help students build empathy by learning to care for others.”

Through pet therapy, students find some relief from issues that hinder academic focus.

“Some students who do not respond as well to typical ‘talk’ therapy are more responsive with the dogs,” Boillat said. “It is another tool to help draw students out and find ways for them to relieve stress.”

“Any of our students could benefit from the social skills, behavior modification, self-esteem and empowerment, and self-control provided by pet therapy,” said DLC dean Sam Bacino.

Last year, Ebony also attended pet therapy at Little Company of Mary Hospital as part of a group.

“The dogs are well trained,” Fields said. “One knows when someone is about to have a seizure, and right before the seizure the dog would lick the person’s nose to (indicate) that they were about to have a seizure.”

Provided to the SouthtownStar



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