In the toolkits of educators, school counselors and therapists, our Therapy Teams are powerful motivators for students in need. We help children make strides in early intervention centers, K-12 schools, group homes, and after-school programs – anywhere learning takes place.
We deliver Animal-Assisted Education via two programs, School’s Best Friend (formerly Petscription for the Classroom) and Sit, Stay, Read!.
*Disclaimer: No association exists between Hand in Paw, an Alabama not-for-profit corporation, and Sit Stay Read Inc., an Illinois corporation, or the services of either entity.
School’s Best Friend offers wide-ranging applications, allowing each school to tailor services to address the greatest challenges facing its students. Examples include:
- In a classroom, the Therapy Team joins circle time on a weekly basis. The children sharpen their social skills by taking turns to approach and asking to pet the animal.
- The therapy animal wears a special vest that has Velcro patches. Teachers create flash cards with Velcro backing, and encourage students who choose the correct card to affix it to the vest. The children are motivated by the chance to interact with the dog.
- School-based Speech Therapists ask students to give the therapy dog commands, and the children are delighted to see the dogs comply.
- Guidance Counselors incorporate Therapy Teams as they help children process grief, trauma, family upheaval, and a range of other challenges. Children are more relaxed and forthcoming with support from therapy animals.
- Teachers read books as the Therapy Team looks on, and the animal may dress up like a character. Students pay attention more closely than usual.
- School-based Physical Therapists find that students are more eager to take a walk down the hall alongside a Therapy Team than otherwise.
- School-based Occupational Therapists help students sharpen fine motor skills as they practice using the buttons, laces, and zippers on the therapy dog’s vest. The OT asks the handler to discuss the importance of their dog’s hygiene routine, and how it’s similar to that of people’s.
- A school’s Therapy Team provides pet safety demonstrations at an assembly. They explain their role, offering to be there for students in need. Administrators report that this creates a safe, positive environment and promotes a culture of kindness.
Our Sit, Stay, Read! program’s strength lies in its simplicity – struggling students read aloud, on a weekly basis, to nonjudgmental furry friends and their caring handlers. Applications include:
- English as a Second Language classrooms
- An after-school program for children who are experiencing homelessness, and may have fallen behind in school due to their family’s circumstances
- Summer programs at group homes to combat summer learning loss
- Partnering with Reading Coaches, Media Specialists, and other school personnel who select students most in need